I thought I’d grab the chance to write now because I’m in the middle of what is a very typical situation at Berkeley, especially for an exchange student.
In short, there’s too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Here are my options:
1. I have a midterm paper to write for a deCal (non-faculty, pass/not pass class) due Saturday at midnight (I got an extension, deCals are mostly very relaxed about this).
2. I am performing in Jericho, the university’s improv comedy group, tonight so need to be at the venue in half an hour.
3. I have three possible parties/events I can go to after the show.
4. I have midterm exams for my actual faculty courses coming up in a week, so should really try and at least catch up with my course readings.
5. All this weekend (including earlier today) is Hardly Strictly, a free bluesgrass festival in Golden Gate park, San Francisco. It’s on from about midday-7pm every day and features acts such as Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Nick Lowe, Patti Smith, Bonnie Prince Billy etc etc: http://www.strictlybluegrass.com/2010/artists.shtml
(P.S. if you’re into festivals then another (not-so-free) one to check out would be Treasure Island: http://www.treasureislandfestival.com/2010/index.php and, for a more chilled out affair, the Bridge School Benefit Concert: http://www.bridgeschool.org/events/concert.php )
6. I’m going to see Arcade Fire at the Greek Theater (a massive open air venue) on Sunday.
7. I need to do my left over reading for this week and the week to come.
8. I need to plan what to write about for my weekly opinion column at the Daily Californian, the student newspaper at UC Berkeley(it’s also the only daily newspaper in the city of Berkeley): http://www.dailycal.org/
So, lots and lots of things to do and not much time to do them in. Life here is hectic,mostly because courses bung huge piles of reading on you. This week I had around 4-500 pages of reading to do. Of course, they tell you that you can skim read some of it but that saps the enjoyment out of the readings, making them even less fun than they were. Readings become a haze of scattered nonsensical points unless you really try and commit yourself to them.
At the moment I try and do 9-5 days in the library, Monday-Friday. Needless to say this doesn’t work. Not only would this only just be enough time to read and write everything I have to read and write, but it also doesn’t leave enough time to do all the extra things I want to do. Striking a balance between work and play at Berkeley is near impossible – I scrape by reading or skim reading essentials and trying to get grades that allow me to have a social life whilst maintaining my academic integrity.
And yet everyone seems to consider this normal. Some people do even more than me. They have 20 hour a week jobs and internships at big impressive businesses, they volunteer for charities, write for non-student newspapers and magazines. People live for their resumes, constantly thinking of their future jobs and salaries. Some of these people must be machines, or at least have a copy of Bernard’s watch.
However, these extreme examples seem to be only just enjoying themselves. In stark contrast, I’m yet to meet an exchange student who isn’t loving every second of their time here. Which is why in a way I don’t really care what I do this weekend, no matter whether I go to parties and gigs or just put my head down and study, I’m enjoying every single second of my time here. It may be hectic but it’s nearly always challenging and exciting.
Now I’ve got to go, I’m running late!