Reflecting on freshman year

    Let’s take a look at this year’s freshman class. We were overachievers in high school, we had easy classes and we went home to our parents every weekend. Those who were popular in high school hung on to clique-ish tendencies and Abercrombie clothes, and those who were dorky in high school became Geisel-haunting bookworms who get busted for excessive Internet file sharing.

    That’s the general picture. Here’s a specific one.

    Orientation was, by far, the most hellish time I’ve had to endure in college thus far and it had the cruel irony of being utterly disorientating (not to mention demoralizing). Trekking around campus for days at the mercy of an ebullient orientation leader, and being bombarded with flyers, information and obviously, fictional stories about the Stuart Art Collection gave me an overwhelming desire to curl into a ball, retreat back home and never mingle with any of my peers in forced “”meet-and-greet”” activities ever again. Orientation did have one undeniably positive aspect, though — it made Welcome Week and each week since incredible cakewalks in comparison.

    Welcome Week was positively surreal. Like typical freshmen, my apartment-mates and I were still entertaining the notion that we could be best friends and skipped off together to every campus event we could find. Those campus events were pretty fun, I’ll admit, but getting dressed up for a pajama party and learning on the walk there that it had already been busted by the cops, while quintessentially collegiate, was nonetheless a bit disheartening.

    After Welcome Week ended, the reality set in — I was living on my own, joining activities, shuttling to RIMAC every weekday to dance two hours a night, making friends and taking classes, all without any significant problems. It almost felt like a cop-out to have that rocky period of adjustment full of tearful phone calls, wrenching soul-searching, clashes in priorities and problems with academics never materialize.

    Honestly, the toughest problem I had was coping with my friendly neighborhood dining hall closing at 8 p.m. every night, but this was quickly solved by a bit of planning ahead — and later in the year, moving across campus to an apartment in the shadow of Thurgood Marshall College’s dining hall, OceanView Terrace.

    I realize now that I missed out on many revered freshman pasttimes. The only frenzied phone call I made was to maintenance when my sink overflowed all over the kitchen floor just as I was getting ready to go out on a Friday evening. The closest I came to a personal crisis was an evil hairdresser chopping off all my hair when I simply asked for a trim.

    And as for the revered UCSD tradition, the all-nighter? The biggest threat to full nights of sleep was my apartment-mates’ early-morning, blaring, bass-heavy hip-hop. At a school where the dark under-eye circles and residual caffeine-induced jitters of all-nighters are strange status symbols, I stick out like a sore thumb.

    College is often billed as a radical departure from everything about high school, and UCSD definitely eschewed some of the more terrible aspects of the previous four years. But UCSD seems like simply an overgrown high school at times, and the student body still manages to constantly whine about classes and resent the administration, campus newspaper and student government, despite having gone through great pain and expense to come here.

    Apparently, dwelling on every remotely negative aspect of UCSD seems to be a popular area of independent study among UCSD students. At first, I was surprised and dismayed by this obvious mirror of our high school careers, but I’ve come to accept the universal truth that no matter how accommodating our roommates, how much fun we had over the weekend, how awesome our classes are, how much we love our major or how beautiful the weather, UCSD students will always find a reason to be bitter and cynical. It’s a rite of passage until we find ourselves slaving away at a dead-end job after graduation and realize that college was paradise in comparison.

    I was also struck with the realization that UCSD has the inferiority complex of an insecure middle school student. We’re constantly comparing ourselves to other universities, most notably UC Berkeley and UCLA, with the presupposition that we’re all here because those schools rejected us. I thought the ankle-biting and constant comparisons to one’s peers that characterized the college application period would subside after senior year, yet I’m acutely aware of my acquaintances who, say, chose UCSD over Berkeley or were dissuaded to attend Davis at the very last minute.

    Furthermore, we constantly decry our lack of SDSU’s crazy parties, the prestige of Berkeley and the hot-guy meatmarket of UCLA. SDSU might have better parties and UCLA might have hotter guys, but only UCSD has a comfortable proximity to both (and Berkeley, of course, is overrated and filthy). I, for one, have to wonder how those UCLA guys can be fully enjoyed in the three square feet of living space UCLA students are afforded.

    And let’s not forget UCSD’s most lovable trait: the college system and its mysterious sister, the inter-college transfer. UCSD likes to pretend inter-college transfers don’t exist and for good reason: The university puts a lot of work into maintaining the image that all six colleges are incredibly wonderful and are flexible enough to perfectly accommodate any student.

    Some of us, like myself, don’t buy a bit of it and are filled with a sense of misplacement — GE angst, if you will — from the beginning. For spring quarter, freshmen who get a perverse thrill from writing personal statements, filling out forms, formulating four-year plans, pissing off the academic advisors and waiting for more than a month to be notified of the decision, inter-college transfers are positively thrilling. My request was accepted, and next year, I will enjoy fewer GEs and, because of the timing of room selection, live in the college I defected from. It should be interesting, to say the least.

    And to mix up my living situation even further, I also moved across campus after fall quarter — an option that too few people know exists (or perhaps they secretly love complaining about a teeny room, difficult roommates and the like?). With the help of the central housing office, two friends and a Honda, I was in my new place less than two weeks after I decided to move. My new place afforded me a huge bedroom with an absentee roommate, no stairs to climb and shorter walks to classes, RIMAC and OVT. It made my old apartment look (and sound) like a retirement home in comparison — which is, except nights before exams, a good thing.

    Sure, this year had bitter disappointments and golden moments and I undeniably went through extreme personal growth. I’ll forgo the boring details in favor of saying that, thankfully, nothing was particularly earth-shattering, probably because my expectations were practically zero. I spent three days of my life — those surrounding Admit Day — in the San Diego area before I committed myself to coming here. Foolish? Maybe, but my instinct was correct, and this year was wonderfully serendipitous. If the trend continues, I just may have to forgo the bitterness and cynicism.

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