This is What a UCSD Student Doesn’t Look Like

As a senior, I’ve answered most of these important questions for myself by now. But I’ve never switched majors, and so other than the 200-seat soft science lectures I bushwhacked through in the name of general education, one thing I haven’t done is take a class outside the lit or history departments.

It’s unfair to generalize, and so I usually try not to, but after investing three years and an ungodly amount of tuition in my college education, I feel confident in declaring lit majors a rare breed at UCSD. We’re always late, we wear too much plaid, we share too many irrelevant opinions in class — and, guiltily, most of us have still never met a Moleskine we didn’t like. (It’s not an emo diary, OK?)
There are exceptions: people who are preternaturally prompt (I was born weeks late, if that means anything), and others who long ago cashed in their last plaid shirt at Buffalo Exchange. We come in all shapes and sizes and ages and backgrounds, but for whatever reason, the tortured artist/beatnik thing seems kind of hard to work past.

So on Thursday night, in climbing the steps to Warren Lecture Hall for not the first time, I don’t really know what I was expecting. I’d never been to a communications class before. Would there just be lots of, you know, talking? Would I need a notebook? Where, in God’s name, was my emo diary?  

I sauntered in 10 minutes early, which was when the difference immediately struck me: The room was already at least half full. People carried notebooks and Greek sweatshirts and bubble gum and pens.

Nobody was wearing any plaid.

As class began, things only got weirder. Everyone smiled in introducing themselves. They noted their year, major and intention to pursue law school, public relations or business. No one wasted breath on any awkward, self-indulgent detail of their summer (e.g. “I just really felt like going to Prague,” or “I already had a lot of experience at magazines.”) Almost everyone said they hoped to improve their writing — which, curiously, I don’t recall ever hearing a classmate say in three years of Lit/Writing courses. We must know better.

While the usual orders of business took up the rest of the hour, I began to recognize something that should’ve been obvious: I’ve gotten too comfortable. In being a grouchy, caffeine-addicted Lit. major that’s as guilty of parsing details as the next one (even if I don’t know much about the magazine business or Prague). In recognizing nameless faces from just a couple pockets of campus and making no effort to meet the others. In getting the same damn sandwich from the Sunshine Market twice a week, and lamenting the soggy sourdough just as often.

I’ve always been quick to criticize those who squeeze their freshman roommate’s hand and never let go — people who settle during Welcome Week and never come to know anything more than exactly one beer-pong table and toilet. But I’ve also realized that in limiting myself to one set of classes, to one corner of campus, I’ve done no better myself.

Maybe that Natural Disasters class wasn’t ever meant to parlay itself into a career in science (so please: Don’t call me Dr. Cox, or the Cox doc or whatever).

Maybe my failure to grasp the nuances of Intro to Logic is a testament to my place in the world as an illogical, irrational artist type (another theory: my liberal arts boy glasses are to blame for everything). But what if I’d been more open to the unknown?

No matter how many heated A.S. Council meetings or dubstep-blaring fraternity booths we go out of our way to witness, each of us has a relatively narrow view of what a UCSD student looks like. It just comes down to the numbers: There isn’t any way to sift through 23,000 anonymous faces and emerge with a full, detailed portrait of who or what we are.

The way to start, though, is probably by doing the opposite of what I have: Meet everyone. Try everything. It’s the beginning of the year, and if all doesn’t go according to plan, no one’s going to remember or care by Thanksgiving.

And so I implore you, dear readers young and old, freshman and sixth-year, to consider the unfamiliar this year. It’s my last, and while I don’t have many classes left, there must be at least a dozen beers at the pub I haven’t tried.

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