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The first thing he said to me when I got off the plane was “I never want to leave this place”. Meet Ryan, another of those students happy enough to leave beautiful Sydney Uni behind in search of new horizons on exchange. And for you, dear reader, I took it upon myself to visit him and his fellow Usyd-kid Claire, in order to give you a greater picture of what studying in the United States could be like. Any personal benefit is purely coincidental.

Ryan and Claire have chosen the prestigious Berkeley… a haven of intellectual vigour on the outskirts of the city famous for the Golden Gate bridge, that made me miss ‘Full House’ because of its postcard perfect, well, erm houses. Don’t pretend you don’t remember the theme song and those cute little twins who went on to build an empire...

“Everywhere you look, everywhere you go. There's a face of somebody who needs you.”

Well Berkeley needs you… it’s got an earthquake-resistant tower, gigantic Library that looks like it should be heritage listed, and carefully landscaped trees that make you feel as if you have shrunk into a perfect architectural model. What more could you want? I could rave all day about the beautiful campus, the cute shops and tattoo stores that surround it and hark back to the hippy days, or the many great cheap restaurants. But really, the reason I loved Berkeley can be summed up in one moment.

It was about 2am, and I returned to the dorms to find a bunch of people hanging out in someone’s room. We’d all had a few drinks and had been madly dancing at a party about half an hour before. But there they were, sitting on the floor, debating animatedly about religion and politics and any other weighty issues that sprung to mind. I felt an instant surge of hope. These people are going to change the world.

It may seem a little weird to say that, but Berkeley gave me a warm fuzzy feeling that I am trying to express. Whether I was cramped in Ryan’s three person closet-like excuse for a room, or chilling in Claire’s musty smelling, arty, hippy, co-op housing, there was always a smiling face and a great conversation to be had. This was a whole new side to America; you travel to a different state and it is like you are in a different country. I was sad to leave a place that made me feel very quickly at home, yet eager to see what Boston (my new home) had in store for me. So I snuck away in the morning for the long flight across the continent… leaving my trademarked red lipstick kiss on every dormroom door… so Berkeley wouldn’t forget me. Stay tuned for Boston times, I’m already working on making my mark.

Just a final note to all those out there buckling down for the home stretch till the HSC. Keep your heads down and remember this about studying: its hard, it sucks, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, the world is what awaits you!

Comments

You probably know all about this from having actually been there, but Berkeley was pretty much the centre of the student rebellion in the 60s - they pioneered sit-ins, demonstrations, hell, even the Black Panthers. I'm reading all about it for my Cold War class (Suri's "Power and Protest", if you need another book to put on your must-read list). When it comes to liberal revolutionary thought, Berkeley is the biggest name in America.

What I guess I'm saying is that while Berkeley is Mecca of the kind of positivist liberal thinking which we cherish so dearly, I'm not certain how much sway it has over the rest of America. I talk to the same kind of people all of the time at Yale, the bright young minds sure to lead the world, and then I look at the political landscape. At best, they become centrists like John Kerry, seeking practical liberal ideals. At worst, they get cut out of politics, like Ralph Nader, in favour of the George Bushes of the world who never did the kind of critical thinking about the world that makes college life such an intoxicating blend.

Wow that was an epic comment on my post. Guess thats what I get for being an idealist eh? I get what you mean here James, but I still think this kind of conversation is useful. At the very least debate and criticism has just led to a slight turn around in American politics... something to provide hope?

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Everything you ever wanted to know about uni but were too afraid to ask....
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