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Fall semester

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SEPTEMBER 13, 2023

We’re a few weeks in.

A few weeks into the fall semester. The American fall semester, an experience that is common from sea to shining sea, but unique relative to the rest of the world.

First, there’s that glorious syllabus week. The tail end of summer. You just moved into your dorm, now the challenge is learning the commute you’ll optimize over the next 16 weeks. 

It’s the opportunity to try something new. The organizations are tabling. Maybe you want to join a club or rush a Greek organization. Now is the time to collect the pamphlets and join the Listserv.

You’re quickly spared by Labor Day, a chance to collect yourself one last time before proceeding.

After that, classes start picking up. Your first assignment is due soon and it’s a little bit harder than the syllabus quiz. Your professors have told you to start thinking about the final project. You look around and pray someone you can trust happened to take the same section as you. Like a conductor at the train station yelling “Last call! All aboard!,” this is the last chance to create a study group chat.

As a reprieve, you get to watch college football Saturdays. Berkeley is even joining the ACC next year. You can’t wait for those tailgates!

There’s probably a birthday party or two for you to attend. The most common birthdays are statistically in September. Hey, your parents were feeling romantic during last year’s holidays. Can you blame them? Regardless, your parents’ … bonding is the reason you’re here grinding at the library.

There’s another holiday in there somewhere. And before you know it, it’s a busy October week but you coordinate Amazon costume purchasing for Halloween. It’ll probably be whatever is trending this year. Oppenheimer getup? And if you had a successful cuffing season, you and your partner might even pull off Ken and Barbie! The bigger question is, Halloween lands on a Tuesday (lame), so will Cal collectively celebrate Halloweekend the weekend before or after?

All the while, the redness of the leaves correlates with the difficulty of your classes. Second rounds of exams are coming up. The outline of the project is due soon, so don’t fumble it. But hey, it’s at least not worth as much as the final project, and your partners will eventually respond on the GroupMe, right?

Now we’re firmly in pumpkin spice and sweater weather territory. You’ve been assigned some dish for friendsgiving. It’s hard to prepare something as someone who’s been relying on a meal plan, but you make it work. Harder still is carrying your dish on a disposable aluminum tray while trying not to spill it in the Uber.

Real Thanksgiving spares you. As an international student, I’d try to spend this at a friend’s place. I figure that for many, it’s a teaser before winter break.

Once you’re back, it’s the final stretch. From third base to home. The project is due, snow (your mileage may vary) and a lot of number crunching to figure out what you need on your final exam.

But you’re done. That’s the fall semester. Up next — basketball season and spring break plans?

Contact Rafael Arbex-Murut at 


SEPTEMBER 13, 2023