“College Thus Far :-)” by Caitlin Dong

Note:  Caitlin Dong was the first recipient of the Carol Phan College Scholarship.  She is now attending U.C. Berkeley.  Thank you, Caitlin, for this update and the kind words at the end of your blog entry.  You rock!  🙂

Sitting here, I realized that I am about to start my tenth week of college. That’s insane. On the one hand, it feels as if I’ve always been here in Berkeley, but on the other hand, it seems as if I just moved in yesterday. Though, moving in yesterday would be quite impossible given everything that’s happened in the past two months.

Since Berkeley is one of two UC schools on a semester schedule, I moved in only a week after school started in Tracy. Despite the fact that a majority of my friends had another month off, I was actually content because I felt ready to start school again after a completely relaxed and lazy summer. To be blunt, I had a buttload of stuff to move into my dorm room; I think my dad was relieved once our living room was able to breathe again. We packed out our family van, took two cars, and off we went. After signing in upon arriving at my dorm complex, my family and I made multiple trips to move in my stuff. As I walked down the hallway, I practically passed by my room, as the plaque on the wall next to the door said “study lounge” – naturally, you’d think it was a study lounge, right? Yeah, don’t think so. My dorm room is a converted study lounge, though it is practically the same size as all of the other rooms in the building. Anyway, after a couple of hours, I was all moved in. My roommate did not come until later, but I was relieved when she showed up. I was not about to sleep all alone in this room all by myself the very first night.

One of the first things my roommate, Heather, and I were forced to adjust to was the fact that we had to walk everywhere. For me, this was a particularly difficult adjustment. During the summer, I would literally walk down the street to get the mail and I would be exhausted, aha. Here, though, I just had to / have to suck it up and walk. However, I’m thankful because I definitely needed the exercise, and I hope my calves will be strong by the end of these four years – or by the end of this semester.

The first few days in Berkeley were designated to getting acclimated to living here and what not. Welcome activities and events were held, and we didn’t start school until Thursday of that week. Of course, I would get an infection in my mouth and look like a chipmunk…the day before school started. I was beyond stressed, as I had to call a dentist, figure out what was wrong, go to the health center, and get penicillin…the whole shindig. I was so used to having my mom take care of things like that. To say the least, it stunk. Just a month earlier, I had gotten all four of my impacted wisdom teeth out, but after a couple of weeks, the oral surgeon said that everything was healing and looked good to go. What a lie. After I was finished with that dose of antibiotics, I was rather relieved. But that was short-lived. Two and a half weeks later, I was swollen out again. This time, though, I went home to Tracy and visited the oral surgeon. The next week, I had an operation, and I also had to go home the weekend after for my follow-up appointment. I’d like to believe that I’m on my way to a full recovery this time 😉

I am truly grateful that a handful of close friends also go to UC Berkeley. They are always there for support, especially in times of need. While I have made new friends, found study buddies, and settled into a routine, just knowing that a high school friend is close by and available is reassuring. Then again, I also love my roommate. I think I lucked out; I have not had to experience any of that “I hate my roommate” drama. The fact that we get along so well makes my freshman experience all the more enjoyable and memorable. After the second week of school, we took the public bus (which is free for students!) and bought a pinkish/purplish/bluish betta fish, who we loving named Little Buddy 🙂

Since I’ve been here, I haven’t spent too much money. More than half of what I’ve spent was spent on, well, textbooks. Holy cow. My jaw dropped when I paid for all of my textbooks – people really aren’t lying when they say that $200 may or may not pay for a semester’s worth of books. Other than that, I don’t really eat out all that much. I mostly grab my food at the dining common or from other places around campus that accept meal points. What I’ve learned is that I can get a take-out box by paying $0.75 more than if I were to actually eat at the dining common and I can fit practically three meals in there. Sounds like a deal to me.

Academically, the transition from high school to college was not a shock. I feel as if the workload is comparable; while I am in class for less time here, there is more work to do for each class. Therefore, it just all evens out. I will say, though, that you do have to adjust to each of your classes and what exactly each professor expects out of you and of your work. Nevertheless, you learn to adjust, seek help, and improve. I’ve also gotten into the habit of getting work done in between classes. I sit on the benches in the lecture halls outside of the lecture rooms. Everyone else around me is also working, so I’m surprisingly productive. I have not gone to the library to work and study; I normally do my homework and what not in my room or in one of the study lounges in my building.

One of the perks of going to college is being presented with opportunities to see/meet people, such as John Cho, Maxine Hong Kingston, Jane Lynch, and Johnny Depp. John Cho and Maxine Hong Kingston, along with a couple of others, came for an event called “Dreaming in Different Tongues: Languages and the Way We Think.” Jane Lynch was in Berkeley in order to give a talk and for a book signing for her newly published work, Happy Accidents. My sister is a huge fan of Jane Lynch, so I ended up getting a signed copy of the book for her. It was surreal to talk to Jane Lynch in person – actually, it was pretty darn cool, if you ask me. While I didn’t attend the Johnny Depp event, I know a number of people that did.

I’ve been going to the Recreational Sports Facility at least a few times a week. After paying for the $10 semester membership, there are over a hundred classes available for me to attend each week. So far, I’ve been to zumba, cardio hip hop, cardio dance, pilates, cardio kickboxing, and stepography. Going to these classes is a fun way to relieve stress and also get some exercise. Each of the instructors has so much energy, so I’m always in for a good workout.

Just earlier this week, the fire alarm in my building went off not one, not two, but three times in one day. Talk about fire alarm malfunctions. But I guess that’s dorm life for you. Dorm life, while it has worked out quite nicely for me, makes me appreciate being home when I go back for the weekend. I don’t have to wear shower shoes, I eat real food, and, though I thought I’d never really say this, I miss good ole Tracy. However, I’m glad I was able to participate in The Berkeley Project Day with some of my Tracy friends. Doing some community service was fun and rewarding!

The transition into an urban area has been interesting; there are always people wandering about and it seems as if there is always something going on. Street vendors line the streets on the weekends and the line for ice cream sandwiches measures at least half a block. Since I’ve been here, I’ve come to love and embrace my independence, and college has been an overall positive experience thus far. I’m sure there’s much more that I’m forgetting at this point, but you’re probably tired of reading this anyway, so thanks for reading, aha 🙂 And, I’d also like to give thanks again to everyone involved in the Carol Phan Scholarship effort; every little bit of money definitely counts and makes a difference!

Drive Safe!  Never Forget.

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