Students Hope to Learn From Each Other's Experiences

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The development of discipline-specific lingo among students of various majors shows just how different the demands of one field of study at UC Berkeley can be from another. Words that ring familiar in certain students' ears may seem foreign to other students in a different field.

To most students, TLC stands for "tender loving care." But if you ask pre-med students, they will most likely respond with the words "thin layer chromatography" - a reaction resulting from dozens of organic chemistry labs, where the chromatography process is referred to as TLC.

At the same time, while most Haas and intended business students know the names of business fraternities such as Delta Sigma Pi, others might think "Delta Sigs" are just another fraternity or sorority in the Greek system.

All UC Berkeley students share a common bond: they are college students willing to dedicate four, and in some cases five or six, years of their lives to receiving a UC Berkeley education.

But beyond this bond lie thousands of completely different students with unique stories, lifestyles, majors and disciplines.

With a campus population of close to 30,000, most UC Berkeley students will never get to know or even meet the majority of their college peers.

"You won't meet everyone because there are so many people," says freshman Seo Jin Son, an intended business student.

Every day, students who walk through Sproul Plaza in the afternoon encounter so many unfamiliar faces that it becomes easy to overlook the fact that each face belongs to a peer with a unique and personal college life.

Each student is involved in his or her own personal struggle to balance classes and extracurricular activities in the hope of achieving a future goal, be it a career in medicine, education, law or architecture. And each student has his or her own approach to meeting demands.

On any given weeknight, many students may be up working into the early hours of the morning. Each of these students is planning to pull yet another all-nighter, but each may spend time doing completely different things.

One student could be staying up to finish typing an organic chemistry lab write-up. Another might be downing coffee while struggling to finish reading "Heart of Darkness" by the next morning. Some students spend long nights in the basement of Soda Hall writing computer programs. Still others might be working through the night in an attempt to build a larger-than-life-sized bird for an architecture class.

Every UC Berkeley student is different from the other in many ways and, especially in college setting, in academics.

Each field of study requires students to take a certain set of classes and make specific commitments to research or projects, yet each student approaches the obligations in his or her own way.

With so many different disciplines to choose from, the paths of many UC Berkeley students do not cross. In terms of academics, one UC Berkeley student's academic life can be completely different from another.

As a result, it becomes difficult for students studying one discipline to understand what it feels like to be in another. What is going on in the lives of their peers may seem like the happenings of a completely different world.

Although most students have friends from all majors and fields of study, sometimes it is the classes that students take - not intentional disregard - that determines the people who they will see the most and to whom they can relate best, students say.

"Once you get into a major, you tend to associate more with the people in it," Son says.

The difficulty relating to different fields of study leads to the development of stereotypes that identify students bt their majors. Some are labeled "pre-law;" others, "Haas" or "EECS."

But stereotypes make it difficult for a pre-med student ever fully to experience the lifestyle and struggles of an architecture or Haas student. Similarly, it is unlikely that an engineering student will ever experience the same pressures and demands of a pre-law student or an art major.

"I've heard about architecture majors who work through the night in Wurster, but I've never been there or even had to stay on campus through the entire night," says junior Annie Chang, an integrative biology major.

According to junior Jonathan Ho, it is because the demands of each discipline are so intense that it is difficult to understand or even get a feel for the lifestyles and struggles of students outside their discipline.

Most students do not have the opportunity to experience studies outside of their major, but that does not mean they do not find it interesting to find out what is going on in the lives of their peers, he says.

"When you're stressed out with all your classes and midterms, you don't have the time or the opportunity to meet that many people studying a different major," says Ho, a molecular and cell biology major.

Even though it is impossible to know how it feels to be a different person, Ho and other students agree that it could be interesting to find out about their peers and what kind of lives they lead at UC Berkeley.

"I wish I could know how it feels to be an engineer or a drama major because (the field of study) is so different from mine," Ho says.


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