The first time I heard about the carillon four years ago, I was standing at the base of UC Berkeley’s beloved Campanile. Peering up, up, up at the 61 bells that loomed impressively from the top of our 307-ft tall bell and clock tower, the first word that came to mind was “Wow!” Ever since I’ve heard about this majestic instrument, I’ve wanted to learn how to play it. This semester, I am one of twelve lucky students in the Carillon DeCal, a class facilitated by two experienced carillon students. We will be having weekly private lessons, and at the end of the semester, I will be playing the bells for the entire campus to hear!
Did you know that dolphins sleep on one side of the brain at a time, and that the two hemispheres take turns sleeping while the other is awake to control swimming and breathing? Or that cells in biology labs where the lights are on all the time can get jet-lagged? (“I’m so tired… It’s been day for 3 months!”) Or that there’s a fairly strong relationship between happy mood and increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex? I was having an amazing day a couple days ago, and I thought to myself that my left prefrontal cortex must really be tickled with all that happiness.
We are coming to the end of the semester here at UC Berkeley, and this means a couple of things. First, we are only weeks away from summer and the little kid in all of us is busting out of the seams to swim and hike and rest. Second, before we get to enjoy the spoils of summer we have to make it through Dead Week and Finals. Dead Week, actually called Reading/Review/Recitation Week, is the week before final exams where we have no class but instead are encouraged to spend all our days poring over our books and past midterms to prepare ourselves for the coming test of what we have learned this semester. Thus you can see why we call it Dead Week, because campus is dead and you kind of feel like you’re dying. But I think the most effective dead weeks are those that are interspersed with adventures, silliness, and many a study break. How often do you really get a chance to have no class but still be at school with all your friends? A week like this should be taken advantage of.
For campus ambassadors the month of April tends to be pretty hectic. With all the newly admitted students, prospective students on spring break and the international visitors it can be a little busy. One of our duties as ambassadors is to give interested parties tours of the campus (my favorite part of the job). Having given quite a few tours in the past week I noticed that I was often being asked a question that I normally had not encountered on previous tours.
Is Berkeley too cutthroat or competitive?
I always loved history. It was one of my favorite subjects in high school and out of the many AP classes I took, AP US history probably was my favorite (just because we got to learn about the free speech movement). One of the things I wished I knew as a freshman was that you can take certain upper division classes in your freshman year. I wished I had taken advantage of this knowledge and started earlier, but it’s never too late.
I signed up for my first history class this semester, History 162B taught by Professor Wetzel, and it changed my entire academic career. Berkeley students have many helpful websites that they use to help them shop for classes, and I personally use www.berkeleytime.com, www.ninjacourses.com, and schedulebuilder.berkeley.edu. History 162B was reviewed by many students, and everyone talked about how amazing it was. The class also fulfilled one of my Political Economy prerequisites, so I opted to sign up for it with some of my friends.
In my academic career at UC Berkeley, I have been fortunate enough to take classes with professors that are world-renowned in their fields. I have learned about fruit fly development, primate evolution, and squirrel behavior from the very people who made the discoveries being taught to me. This level of academia is of course one of the reasons Berkeley was my dream school. But I had no idea that if I came to UC Berkeley, I would also have the opportunity to take classes taught by other undergraduate students in more (how should I phrase this?) recreational fields of study. The type of class I’m describing is the DeCal.
(If you think this is bad…these are only books for two of my five midterms.)
When I checked the syllabi for my classes at the beginning of the semester, I noticed that March 12 came up a couple times. Strangely, March 11 also seemed to be a recurring date, and hey… I swear I marked something down on Thursday, March 6! Why were these days so close together?! It didn’t really register with me at the time.
Two months, later, I was faced with the prospect of taking five midterms in the period between Thursday, March 6 and Tuesday, March 12.
Film 50: Film for Non-Majors.
No, calm down, I am not telling you to take one of those dreary classes that sounds fun but where you actually have to write a lot and give a lot of exams. At least not yet. See Film 50 is a series of lectures offered at the Pacific Film Archive Theater that explore the world of cinema. You can either take it as a 4 unit class with discussions and exams, or leisurely attend one or all the lectures/screenings. It is usually a weekly 3 hour block where the Professor or guest lecturer introduces the film, followed by a screening of the film and finally a discussion. There is generally a theme for the series and it can be extremely interesting to follow the lecture/screening that is only once a week. Anyone can attend the Screening/Lecture regardless of whether they are enrolled at UC Berkeley or simply an intrigued member of the public. The class basically consists of watching a movie and then discussing the feelings you have (and trust me with the excellent film collection they have, there will be feelings) with some very stimulating people. Sometimes the 3 hour lecture/screenings would seem too short and I would return to my dorm, torturing any poor floor-mate who happened to be within earshot, by going on and on about how moved or distraught I was.
I won’t lie to you, this morning was a bit of a struggle. Why? No coffee. It truly is amazing how much missing out on a morning cup o’ jo really gets to you three years into your undergrad. Yes, maybe it was my fault that I pressed the snooze button five times thanks to staying up later than usual to study for some midterms (OK, and watching the latest episode of The Blacklist on Hulu), or that I did not check the weather report and realize that biking in the pouring rain to my 9 AM across campus wasn’t the most logical of ideas, so I should probably leave extra room to walk to class. The point is, I was running late, and some sacrifices had to be made. So, I neglected my daily coffee and toast with peanut butter and headed off to my nutritional science class to learn about properly balanced diets (the irony is still striking).