It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing colors and the overcast skies are shining their depressing, gray glow across campus. We’re almost halfway through the semester, and freshmen are, for the first time, burying their heads in their textbooks to study for fall midterms. Watching them walk past Caffè Strada, I can read the questions on their confused, tired faces: “Why is an old white guy teaching my Brazilian culture class?” “Are the co-op kids just stoned all the time or have they achieved a socialist utopia?” “Am I getting cat-called by the ‘HELL YEAH’ guy on Telegraph?”
Freshmen are just beginning to question the world around them and test the strange, hippyish Berkeleyan unknown. At the seventh week of the fall semester, it’s time for the freshmen to undergo the most important part of the transformation during college. These are the six stages of the “freshman awakening.”
Stage 1: When you first read Marx in class
We all remember the first time we read Karl Marx. Sure, some of you might have had SparkNotes of “The Communist Manifesto” plopped down on the desk of your AP Euro class, but I know none of you read it. But now that it’s 3:47 a.m. and you’re studying the comprehensive overview for your first sociology midterm, you catch yourself wondering if you really want to be a Haas-hole after all…
Stage 2: Getting stuck in a group project with a bunch of upperclassmen and having to do all the work
The beauty of being an upperclassman in an introductory course is that you’ve probably done most of this stuff already. You’ve likely already done the readings, or at least touched on the theory before. And, unfortunately for freshmen, upperclassmen are much better at the art of procrastination and BS-ing, which means they’ll wait until the freshmen do the whole project and then still seem like they know what they’re talking about when the group presents.
Stage 3: When you realize the frats are a sham and now that it’s not welcome week, you can’t get in to any of their parties anymore
Remember your friend Brad from the floor below you? The one you rushed with all of welcome week? (Just for the free food, of course.) Whose flowing, blond hair you held while he threw up at Pike? Well guess what — he’s pledge class president now, and doesn’t even remember your name. When you showed up at Brad’s party last Saturday and said you knew a brother, he pretended he didn’t know you while he yelled for his Tinder date to come around the side. You’re pretty sure he even showed her the roof, not you. Well, say bye to Brad, naive freshman. I hope you enjoy watching his Snapchat stories for the next four years.
Stage 4: Taking “Drugs and the Brain”
When you get to the section on psychedelics and start having to read all of professor David Presti’s even more psychedelic poetry, you and your friends start to realize how strange and unconventional academia can be. This is the class that really starts to get you thinking out of the box. Well, this class, and the extra-special day trip you and a couple of your classmates plan together. You know, for research.
Stage 5: Attending your first CZ goth party
Is that person wearing a leather jockstrap with the words “CZ or die” on it? Is that girl from your chem class pole dancing with Brad? Heavy eyeliner drips down your face as you pound on the “Dance Dance Revolution” machine. You made 15 new friends in the bathroom, all of whom are crowded around you cheering. That sweet, nerdy guy you knew in high school and had no idea you went to college with even gave you a tour of his favorite murals! You’re excited by the music, traumatized by the overt sexuality, overheating from the crowds, and really, really, drunk. Looking back at the pictures on your phone the next day, you’re thinking, “I think that might be the best party of my college career.” Looking back through the photos from the bed of your Lothlorien single, they’ll still make you laugh.
Stage 6: When you finally join a protest
And it’s not just any protest — it gets publicized on national TV. Your mom, dad and even your grandma are watching on CNN. You don’t know what’s going on, because the group you came with is definitely not in control anymore. At first you’re scared, but then you’re exhilarated. Your friend blasts “FDT” on his Bluetooth speaker as you and your friends jump and scream. In the months after, you find yourself continually defending your fellow students on social media, and identify as a UC Berkeley student more than ever. Then suddenly, you find yourself having all sorts of difficult conversations — about identity politics, polarization, international policy, you name it. You’ve become the “woke” UC Berkeley student, and you’re proud of it. Welcome to the dark side.
Stay safe out there, kiddos, and have a great rest of your first semester!
Contact Veronica Irwin at [email protected].