A Day in the Life of a College Student: UC Berkeley

College student walkingBy: Hailee Donohgue
You might think that after four years of high school I would have adapted to waking up at the crack of dawn. I am now a freshman in college, my classes start at 10:00 a.m. and I still can’t do it. I’ve overslept for the second time this week. I look over; my roommate, Erika, has already left for class and made her bed; I feel so far behind. I race down the hall, shower caddy banging at my side, towel over my shoulder, as I call out a rushed hello to my floor-mates. I get to the co-ed bathrooms, yes I said co-ed: boys and girls, same bathrooms, same showers, not as bad as it seems. Then it’s back to my room, where I frantically throw on the nearest items of clothing. I end up wearing an outfit that’s an odd mix of yesterday’s yoga pants and my favorite, worn-in Cal sweatshirt.
Outcome my backpack, laptop, charger, and notebooks. I pile them all into my bag, grab my student ID card and room key and step out the door. It’s a mile walk to central campus from my dorm; that may seem far to the college newcomer, but walking is a reality that most college students face. It’s no big deal to me now and I often walk 3-4 miles in a single day.
I arrive on campus. I’m surrounded by the shouts of students asking you to join their clubs, the Cal pep band playing on the Savio steps, and I can see the hundreds of students staked out on the grassy knolls listening to music, reading, and chatting with friends. Memorial Glade is filled with people sunbathing or tossing a Frisbee around. Although I see tons of new faces each day, this seemingly huge place often ends up being a very small world—it’s not uncommon for me to run into people from past classes or dorm mates; I’ve slowly started to carve out my own niche at Berkeley. Being on campus is an exciting experience that I love more every day. I love to sit and people watch while I eat lunch and more often than not, I come away with awkward farmer-tan lines from being in the sun for much too long.
I continue on my way, fast walking to class. Unfortunately, my 11 a.m. is not a giant lecture hall that I can slip into unnoticed; it’s my Spanish class of seven people—seven! I hear the Campanile bells start to chime, so I pick up my pace, winding up the stairs of Wheeler Hall. The great thing about Cal? Berkeley time. No class starts until 10 minutes after the official start time listed; it’s a lifesaver. I walk in, throw out a “hola” and slide into my seat. I made it.
We’re discussing the photography of Lola Álvarez Bravo that we had the opportunity to view in the previous class on a field trip to SFMOMA. My teacher is amazing; she is fluent in four languages and is currently writing her dissertation on Brazilian literature. I sit at my small, wooden desk barely able to spread out all the paperwork I need to be looking at; the desks are always so tiny. The conversation switches seamlessly between Spanish and English; the amazing part about college classes is that every person comes ready to contribute unique outside
knowledge. And although I’m in Spanish class we end up talking about Faulkner, botany, and the meaning behind travel. The hour always passes much too quickly and before I know it I’m done.
From Spanish I head straight to my Astronomy lecture; from black holes, dark matter, and the Keck telescope to Ptolemy I’ve learned more than I ever thought my brain could hold. Taught by Alex Filippenko, a member of the team who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2011, this class has made me reevaluate all of my previous conceptions and has opened my eyes to the reality that the majority of space is insanely unknown. Love this class! Today we learn about supernovae and touch on gamma-ray bursts. Needless to say, it’s going to take me a few classes before I totally get a grip on this new material. The class is over and I’m off to find food.
After I grab a bite to eat on campus I head back to my dorm. T.G.I.F., I get to go lounge around for a bit. I meet up with the Building Seven crew and we stake out a claim on the lawn behind the dorms. We nap; we talk and eventually start an impromptu game of barefoot soccer as we enjoy the wonderful California sun (it took me a while to adjust to this after coming from rainy, rainy Seattle). Even though it’s college, Friday’s are the best because there’s no homework hanging over my head, I get to sleep in tomorrow, and I’m already drooling in expectation of Clark Kerr brunch in the morning. So much potential, what should I do with my weekend? Take BART into San Fran? A movie on Shattuck with friends? Or a night out? I decide to play it by ear.
Whatever I don’t do tonight I know I can do tomorrow or any day for that matter, it’s college baby! At Cal, I’ve learned how to avoid flyers on Sproul Plaza, pull all-nighters, take public transportation, and enjoy the craziness that is freshmen year (and college). At the end of my first year, I feel like I’ve got it all figured it out, but I have a sneaky suspicion next year will bring just as many surprises and lessons to be learned. Bring it on Berkeley.
Go Bears!


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