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Cataloging my classmates

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AUGUST 04, 2017

There are nearly 30,000 undergraduate students at UC Berkeley, a number that astounds me for a variety of reasons. First, even though there are supposedly tens of thousands of us undergrads, I run into the same four people every time I step on campus. In addition, if there really are so many students, how are there are only three (okay, seven) faculty members in the entire media studies department? And, if people are like snowflakes in that no two are exactly alike, why is it that all of my courses seem to be populated with the same stock characters? Riddle me this, Office of Admissions.

A couple weeks ago, I broke down the enigmatic species that is the college professor. This week, I’ll be breaking down the types of students you might encounter in the classroom. Listen up, because I guarantee all of these types will be giving you hell in your next class project.

Up first is the Talker, or the student that cannot keep quiet in class. I am biased on this one because I am the Talker. I am the person who always has something to say. In a classroom of four or in a classroom of 400, I answer when professors ask questions.

Even though I am the Talker, I can’t say exactly what drive my compulsion to speak every time there is a small break in the lecture. Perhaps it is because I grew up in a loud family, one where you’d have to fill the silent voids in order to get your voice heard. Or perhaps it is because I can’t stand the oh-so-pregnant pause when a professor asks, with preconceived disappointment, “Did anyone do the reading?”

Whatever the reason, I can’t shut up.

Up next is the Silent as the Night type. This person is professionally silent, like a CIA agent or a Buckingham Palace guard. A Silent as the Night type never, for any reason, speaks. Participation could be 99 percent of the class grade, and this individual will not comment on a damn thing.

Silent as the Night types usually annoy people a lot less than The Talkers, which is fair. As a Talker myself, however, I am always blown away by such stoicism. Teach me your ways, silent ones.

Then you have the Metabolizing Maniac, or the person that eats their way through their education. This person shows up to their 8 a.m. class with cereal, milk, a banana, eight ounces of orange juice, a protein bar, toast with peanut butter and a few snacks for the walk home. UC Berkeley’s tiny desks, impractical as they are for the Metabolizing Maniac’s morning feast, somehow balance this homemade breakfast buffet.

The Metabolizing Maniac attempts to be discreet, yet somehow doesn’t consider that there is nothing less discreet than opening a bag of chips or popping open a soda in the middle of a lecture on climate change or colonialism or computer coding. Alas, the Metabolizing Maniac is immune to the awkward stares. Eat on, my friend, eat on.

Sidenote: I’ve also been this person.

There’s also the sweet A-For-Effort student. The A-For-Effort students work noticeably harder than their fellow classmates, habitually asking the professor to repeat information and ferociously scribbling down each sentence that dribbles from the professor’s mouth.

The A-For-Effort students want to know how you did on the last quiz, essay and project in order to carefully calculate how much work needs to be allocated to the remaining assessments. You can often see these students playing around with hypothetical grades on bCourses.

It’s easy to make fun, but when you think about the A-For-Effort students you have to remember that they’re really trying for a reason. Maybe they want to graduate with honors, maybe they just want to pass a class in a difficult department. Whatever the reason, you can’t blame a student for trying.

The next character is the Online Shopper, a character I am in awe of. The Online Shopper spends the entire class session flitting between different websites, occasionally making a few purchases and often checking on ones en route.

I have so many questions.

First, where do you get the money to casually buy a new Adidas sweatsuit and a new backpack and a couple of cool gel pens on a Tuesday in discussion section? Please advise ASAP.

Second, is it actually possible to retain any information from class while online shopping? If not, (as I suspect) why do you even go? I get it if it’s a small class that takes attendance, but if you’re in a huge lecture hall and looking for your next date night outfit, why not just hang out at home?

Third, is it awkward when a professor starts talking about commodity culture or Marxism or targeted ads while you are in the midst of a purchase?

Alas, this classmate catalog is not complete, but it is guaranteed easier to navigate than CalCentral. You’re welcome.

Samantha writes the Friday column on undergraduate myths. Contact her at [email protected].

AUGUST 04, 2017