All Work and No Play
If UCSD could embody any famous person it’d probably be someone like Screech from Saved by the Bell or Steve Urkel from Family Matters. When I sent in my Statement of Intent to Register three years ago, I had no idea what I was in for. Back then when I thought of UCSD I pictured the beaches, the surfing, and fun in the sun – basically your typical O.C. episode. But when I think of UCSD now, I think of closet nerds dressed in Hollister or Abercrombie and Fitch only to go home to play video games.
Not a lot of people know this, but UCSD is the definition of a nerd – only the people don’t generally look the part. No matter how hot someone is, I’m pretty sure they own a pair of eyeglasses somewhere. And you wouldn’t know this from walking the campus just once on an hour-long campus tour. So, as someone who lives the life herself, let me break down the UCSD study life and social scene. There’s no doubt about it – UCSD students put the “stud” in studying. According to 20 interviewed UCSD undergraduates, they study on average 20-30 hours a week and go out for fun for only 4-5 hours each weekend. They spend about ten of those 20-30 hours in the library.
For me, trips to the library are pretty much a hobby (and a believable excuse to get out of hanging out with someone you don’t like). There, you’ll find eight floors of study rooms filled to capacity, at least one or two coffees lined up in front of each person, and at least 20 students passed out on top of their laptops. Around midterms and finals season, it’s nearly impossible to find an empty seat and the tension is so high I’m afraid to zip up my backpack for fear that someone might glare at me for being too loud. Bumping into friends around campus, I’m sure the majority of conversations end with, “I gotta go. Headed to the library.” or “I just got out of a midterm and I didn’t sleep last night. I gotta go back home to nap.”
A UCSD student’s schedule revolves around sleeping and studying. During the day, campus is alive with students going to class, and at night campus is dead with everyone in their living rooms with textbooks, highlighters, and laptops. Whatever free time students have they fill it with a book – you can find students studying in dining halls, laundry rooms, and outside on benches between classes. UCSD runs on a 10-week quarter system with the first round of midterms by 4th week, so it’s no wonder students drown themselves in notes.
According to the 20 interviewed UCSD students, on a scale from 1-10 with 10 being the highest, they rate academic competition in their major and/or college around an 8. When I asked students to describe a typical finals week, this is what I got: study all day and all night, eat while studying (and by “eat” I mean lots of unhealthy snacks because large meals take up too much time), shower when you need a refresher, and nap for breaks. Current ERC student Matt Peterson joked, “Study breaks? What are those?”
One of our libraries is open 24 hours around finals and I’ve been told students are known to bring their sleeping bags. UCSD students are notorious for all-nighters. I came to UCSD without ever touching coffee – now I can barely function without it. When energy drinks don’t cut it, some even turn to caffeine pills. Personally, I think UCSD kids study so hard because they think the university has nothing else to offer – no football team, no frat row, so they turn to the books to fill their time. But if you look hard enough there are things to do to escape the stress even just for a few hours.
It may be tough to balance school with a social life, but it isn’t impossible. Current Muir student Chelsea Baker admits, “There’s not a whole lot of craziness going on for under 21s,” but UCSD offers some on campus choices. Here’s what UCSD students do when they’re not studying:
- Go to an on-campus concert (there are a handful held each quarter and they’re free for UCSD students – awesome concerts are what UCSD is known for).
- Visit Price Center (pig out, lounge, or watch a 3-dollar movie in the theater).
- Go to Bear Garden – called Beer Garden for the 21-year-olds (event held every quarter with free pizza and drinks).
- Grab a cup of coffee at all the random cafés around campus.
- Go to the on-campus gym or swimming pool (It’s probably one of the nicest ones you’ll ever go to. Plus you don’t want to sport a muffin top to the beach, do you?)
- Participate in intramural sports (I heard a lot of people make friends outside their college this way).
- Join a club (there’s A TON of them – one’s bound to suit your style).
Stepping off campus, here’s what La Jolla and San Diego can give you.
- Lay out at the many beaches around campus (one of them is a 10-15 minute walk away from campus).
- Go to a bonfire (RAs and clubs hold them for study breaks/social gatherings).
- Shop at one of the many outdoor malls (get a good tan while you spend money).
- Go to a frat party (there are plenty off campus and easy to find via Facebook).
- Visit Downtown La Jolla or San Diego (you’ll find GOOD FOOD there).
- Walk down Pacific Beach (plenty of bars and sex shops).
- Go to Convoy Street (if you’re in the mood for Asian cuisine).
- Spend a couple bucks on frozen yogurt (trust me, it’s a lot better than ice cream and there are a lot of places around to find it).
- Go to the San Diego Zoo, Legoland, or SeaWorld.