So I decided to venture to the I-House (international house) for the first time the other day to get some studying done. I started writing this post, so clearly, that didn't happen. Here is what came to mind when sitting there:
What happened to the intellectualism of Berkeley?! What happened to the eclectic liberalism that defined [and arguably, continues to define] our campus? What happened to Berkeley as the world once knew it?
Whenever I enter the library or a coffee shop, the only thing I see are laptops, readers, or MCAT prep books. Rarely do I notice that lone intellectual, smoking a cigarette and reading philosophy, or debating about politics with a friend. Instead, I see masses of pre-proffessionals, fightings the curves and beating the system. I don't see real protests on Upper Sproul anymore; I see organized time allocations from 12-1pm for people to express their concerns. The spirit of Berkeley is withering away as academia prevails and education retreats.
Somewhere in me, the intellectual screams out and I want to join that dying minority. After all, it's why I came here. I had gotten into plenty of other schools, but it was the idea of Berkeley, being amidst the political core of perhaps the nation, and experiencing firsthand the revolution that supposedly resides within its students that made me want to come to the university (sure, the prospect of job positioning post-graduation didn't hurt either). That very quickly changed after my first semester here. Instead of rediscovering the love for knowledge and education that I had encountered with my friends and teachers at my high school, I was weighed down with textbooks, petty assignments, overwhelming competition, and little regard for the pursuit of a real education. I was too busy to care and too bent on getting an A to worry about appreciating my readings or understanding a certain historical context. Sometimes I feel that the conversations I had in high school had more meaning than they do anymore....so is my propensity to engage in education dying here then? I certainly hope not.
I don't mean to critique Berkeley in a vacuum - I know for a fact that it's just as bad [if not worse] at other universities. What I do mean to point out is that I hold my school to a higher standard of intellectual fitness. I want the revolution back in Berkeley, and I'm worried that as time goes on and I become a professional, I'll be co-opted by the residual stream of pragmatism; something I don't think I'm ready for yet, and I don't think college students should have to face....a questioning of that pragmatism is what defines, IMO, the true elite students in a university.
It saddens me that I didn't realize this earlier. We often get so caught up with our friends, our social events, and our "education", that we lose track of the truly defining moments that can only be placed within our college experience. I certainly fell victim to that. My social and academic life defined my entire experience here and that is something I'm going work on for the upcoming school year.
Take a step back. Notice the people around you and how much you can learn from them. Sitting here in the I-House, I discovered a whole new side to Berkeley, where I am inspired by the diversity of the people who walk through the doors, and simultaneously excited to take in as much as I can from them and their experiences. Just sitting in the FSM reminds me of the University that I came here for....and the University I want to take away when I graduate.
One of the reasons I ran for Senate last year was because I wanted to be a part of the spirit of Berkeley....I can't wait to leave my mark in a history that is so rich and so inspiring to me. And fuck school....I'm going work very hard on getting my education next year.
[EDIT: ok, not exactly. i still need > 3.7. but you know, with some Marx on the side.]