Why this second semester junior still loves back to school week

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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.

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What my wall calendar means to me

Without getting too personal, I’m going to admit that 2014 was an important year for me. I experienced a growth spurt in every way except physically. And it seemed not too long ago when I was scouring the malls to find the perfect 2014 calendar to decorate my wall.

My annual wall calendar shopping ritual can sometimes be annoying for my family. As New Year’s Day approaches, I drag them to every calendar-selling mall or bookstore, picking up twelve-month compilations of puppy or Harry Potter photos before setting them back down on the stands. I show each contender to my family, asking “should I get this one? Or this one?” The process is as delicate as choosing a prom dress.

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Why I’m an “expert” on everything

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Everything.

While I was researching some ways to improve my blog content, I found that many experienced bloggers propose “sharing your expertise” as a good way to gain more page views.

I wasn’t quite sure how to follow their advice. With only twenty years under my belt, I’m reluctant to call myself an expert on anything. I thought I knew a lot about music and writing, but UC Berkeley has managed to convince me otherwise. In fact, college has taught me that I know little to nothing about anything.

Fortunately, I still managed to compile this list of my “areas of expertise:”

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Why I left the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra

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UCBSO Percussion Section on tour in Eastern Europe: Miriam, Alex, Ben, Jihoon, and me.

After I left the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra in the fall of 2014, I had to answer the question, “Why did you leave?” many times. The simple answer is that I need time and space away from the orchestra to grow as a person and as a musician. Allow me to elaborate.

As you may know, orchestra percussionists generally spend more time counting rests and waiting for entrances than playing actual music. Despite getting relatively good parts during my time with the UCBSO, I still encountered rehearsals where I sat for two hours and only played eleven notes on the tam-tam before cleaning up and going home. The few times I played in a high school orchestra, people urged me to switch to band because the percussion parts were better. I defended the orchestra back then, pointing out that even if I was sitting around for most of the piece, I got to listen to grand symphonies and the lush sounds of strings.I joined the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra my freshman year without a second thought. I had been playing in ensembles for all my life and joining orchestra in college was only the natural choice for me. During my two years with UCBSO, I still enjoyed incredible masterpieces while counting my hundreds of measures of rest. But as one semester stretched into four, each 7:30-10 pm rehearsal that I attended on Tuesday and Thursday nights began to feel longer and longer. I would look down at my watch after what felt like fifteen minutes and discover that only five minutes had passed.

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Cough, cough, it’s essay season

This time of the semester, people around me start disappearing into their apartments or the libraries, saying “Oh, I can’t have dinner with you tonight. It’s midterm season.” Or “sorry I haven’t really been on top of things. It’s midterm season.” For those of you who have not yet experienced college, midterm season is like the holiday season in every respect, except instead of getting presents, you get to sit in a cramped desk-chair with 500 other students and face multiple choice questions, “short” answer questions, and debilitating panic attacks. You would expect nothing less from a UC Berkeley class.

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Why I have two "useless" majors

Now that I’m halfway through college, I become increasingly nervous when others ask me, “What are you going to do after you graduate?” College students love to ask each other this question, just to contribute to the overall atmosphere of sheer panic.

Most humanities majors suffer judgement to some degree from naysayers who look pointedly at us and ask “What do you plan to do with that major?” I’m always psyched to be a double humanities major, so I can suffer double the judgement. But I am not here to answer the question of how my degrees will help me in the “real world,” because I am still cooped up in my Berkeley bubble, degree-less and jobless.

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Icebreaking

Time to introduce myself to the online black hole where no one will read my posts, ever. Or maybe it will reach an alien in the nether space, where it will be poked and prodded for any sort of meaning.

Enough of that.

My name is Karen Lin, a Music and Comparative Literature major at UC Berkeley. This is my third year, and though I have no idea what I’ll be doing with my life, I’m currently aiming to take these three paths: journalism/writing, music performance/composition, or web development (this one’s the long shot).

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