I love the first few days of a semester, when there are no expectations for me. I just walk into a classroom with the anticipation of seeing a familiar face in the back of the classroom, or noticing someone I’d want to meet.
I love looking over the syllabus for each class and marking all the dates of midterms and deadlines in the blank pages of my planner. During the first week, my panic levels are at a minimum. I can worry later about that one day when four assignments are due at the same time. Much later.
I love having the time after school to stroll down Telegraph Ave and buy old, used books for my classes just to spite the outrageous textbook prices at the Cal Student Store. Then I scroll through the DeCal website and show up to every random class that I find interesting. Exploration is my favorite pastime.
This semester, Spring 2015, is different from the rest. For the first time, I’m taking one of the technical courses that gives Berkeley a reputation for being a difficult, competitive school. I’m one of 1,000+ students currently enrolled in CS61A, the “introductory” computer science course that challenges even experienced programmers.
Since I started college, my classes have just been a blur of papers and harmony assignments. Every time I ventured into the engineering side of the campus, I felt like I was wearing a sign that said “Here’s a double humanities major who hasn’t taken a math or science class since high school.” But it wasn’t just shame that drove me to sign up for a Computer Science decal last semester: I truly missed slaving over math problems and plugging variables into functions (Too many literature classes can do that to you. So can a nostalgic visit to your high school calculus class. Hi Ms. Nguyen).
Now I’m enrolled in CS61A, and I’m beyond terrified. But with terror comes childish excitement. Now I can become a more well-rounded nerd. I can finally understand the woes of my CS friends who work day and night at their text editors and terminals. Speaking of well-rounded, I’m also excited to take my mandatory biology class and return to the subject I almost chose as my major.
My excitement has only served to remind me that I thrive on the opportunity to dabble in every subject. And as my friend put it the other day, I’m lucky to be so excited about STEM when others are already burnt out from their pre-med/engineering classes. Some of them might even confess that they miss writing papers. Then it’s my turn to confess that as much as I love the humanities, I can also get tired of endless paper assignments.
College is a time of exploration, but we sometimes box ourselves into our own majors and shy away from unfamiliar subjects. My greatest fear- even greater than my fear of failing CS midterms- is missing out on opportunities that Berkeley can provide. Each new semester is a fresh chance to remodel my life with just a few choices of classes and extracurriculars- and so I enjoy my freedom every time.