Is this normal? I do not feel like it is but this is the first time I have seen this.
What exactly do you feel isn’t normal?
Is this the first gas fired appliance you’ve seen?
Not to be rude, I know you’re a student, but you can do a little research for yourself, and learn quite a bit in the process; or you can post a photo and let someone guess and tell you what we think you see, and probably not learn too much from the experience.
Google sediment traps and drip legs.
I agree, here is one for you to study, so next time you will know what you are looking at.
Typically, a sediment trap forces gas to change directions. Otherwise the debris can blow right past the trap. Now, if you GOOGLE it, you’ll see what I mean with many examples.
Drip legs should be at all gas fired devices and if you are worried about the white stuff, that is just some pipe dope that oozed out during assembly. The other thing is make sure there is a shut off nearby.