Wrapping up my Berkeley career

I just had two departmental graduation commencement ceremonies this weekend: the Slavic and the English ceremonies. I’m done with Cal, although I still have a final to take, a paper to write, and many novels to read. I also have a final general commencement ceremony next Friday, after which I am leaving Berkeley for good. I’ll be in Los Angeles with family for the summer, and will hopefully be moving to Virginia in the fall (if financial issues are worked out). I took my last Russian final this morning at 8am, and it went reasonably well, considering I didn’t get a chance to do a part of the last section of reading. Could have done better, but I was burned out and didn’t have the materials because I was too poor to afford a reader.

Graduating from Berkeley has been a dream seven years in the making. I think I first started thinking of Berkeley in 2002 after my girlfriend got accepted and came here. We broke up, and I always felt the need to prove myself to her. Needless to say, transferring to Cal didn’t actually do anything for me in terms of that. I figured out I should stop living for other people’s validation.

Anyway, what can I say about Berkeley? Neither year was exceptionally amazing; in fact, both years been downright depressing. I broke up with Xandus after my first semester, and I was with Jenny through my second and third semesters, and now I’ve been single for my last semester, for the first time in three years. I don’t know why my friends think I’m successful with women, I’m not.

In terms of meeting new people and taking great classes, the first year was not as productive as the second year. I lived in Oakland, 4 miles from campus, which is a long way when you have to walk or take public transportation. I moved after my first semester, closer to campus, and that improved my situation greatly.

During my first semester I managed to get into an application-only verse workshop class with Cecil Giscombe, and I loved it. I realized though, that verse is not my strong suit, and so I took another class with Cecil in the second semester, beginning to write nonfiction. I met my future roommate in this class, as well as a number of really good friends. In fact, all the close friends I’ve made have been through workshop, with the exception of a few whom I’ve met outside of school.

One of the friends I made outside school was Chris, a friend of Jimmy, who was a friend of Xandus. Through Chris and Jimmy, I met all of my current friends who are not at Cal. Chris left after my first semester to go to Slovenia, and it’s been tough without him. He’s a really close friend, and I hope to visit him someday.

The second year was weird, because I was with Jenny for half of it, and living with two roommates, and I didn’t have my own room but was living in the living room. I also applied to MFA programs in my third semester and took another nonfiction class, this time with Bharati Mukherjee. I really enjoy her. From the first day, she treated us like professional writers, not simply students. It was refreshing and really built up my confidence as a writer. I accomplished the most development in terms of creative writing during my third semester. It was probably the most stressful semester I’ve ever had, and at the same time, it felt like the quickest semester, and you’ll see why at the end of this post.

This semester, I took my fourth workshop and my third nonfiction course. Roommate relationships have been stressful for the entire year, but I’ve dealt with it reasonably well. I was accepted to a number of MFA programs, including Hollins. I’ve been writing nonfiction for a year and a half as of next month. It’s been great to discover that I am good at writing.

When I transferred, I discovered that Berkeley is easier than it sounds. I didn’t get perfect grades, but I have been a Dean’s Honors scholar, so if I accomplish that, potential students can too. As a transfer, I felt better prepared to study here, because I knew what I wanted to do. I wouldn’t recommend doing a double major unless you really have a passion for both subjects, because my schedule was packed during the second year with requirements for the Russian major. Also, same thing with the Honors thesis class. Unless you have a topic picked out, and you know you want to write on that topic, do not take the class. It’s a year long, and the first half is strictly theory and criticism (which I loved), but without a topic, I could not continue.

I’m going to miss the people and the architecture here more than anything else.

Here’s a rundown of the courses I took through my two years here. I added an extra class after the first semester and the second semester, but this semester I only took four, which was fantastic.

Fall 2007 – 15 units – GPA: 3.75

ENGLISH 143B Verse – Giscombe – A
ENGLISH 165AC American Cultures Requirement – American Intervention – B+
SLAVIC 103A Advanced Russian Grammar and Mechanics – A
SLAVIC 105A Russian/English/Russian Translation – A-

Spring 2008 – 20 units – GPA: 3.66

ENGLISH 100 Junior Seminar Requirement: Representing the Holocaust – B+
ENGLISH 118 Milton – B+
ENGLISH 143N Nonfiction – A
SLAVIC 103B Advanced Russian Grammar and Mechanics – A
SLAVIC 190 Russian Culture taught in Russian – A-

Fall 2008 – 23 Units – GPA: 3.34

ENGLISH 143N – Nonfiction – A
L&S 140C – Soviet Experience lecture course – B-
SLAVIC 45 – 19th century Russian Literature – B+
SLAVIC 131 – The Avant-Garde during 20th century (Rus/Ita/Fr) – A-
SLAVIC 134F – Nabokov – B

Spring 2009 – 15 units – GPA: expected 3.73

ENGLISH 143N – Nonfiction – expected A
ENGLISH 166 – Narrating the Nation – expected A
SLAVIC 45 – 20th century Russian Literature – expected A
SLAVIC 134G – Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky – expected B

I think that unless I get really lucky and get 4 As, my final cumulative GPA will be a 3.58. Right now I have a 3.57. That’s kind of pathetic.

Oh yeah, I’m also in the Dobro Slovo Slavic Honor Society. Go me!

2 thoughts on “Wrapping up my Berkeley career

  1. I know grades don’t matter, but it’s just a matter of personal pride. I always wanted to do really well, and I kind of let myself down.

  2. not pathetic, that’s nearly an A – average. Think about how many times people have asked you your high school GPA since your graduated. Zero? Once you are in grad school I bet no one will ever ask about your GPA.

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