The University of California at Santa Cruz was kind enough to host me for what can be loosely termed my undergraduate education. I was a UCSC student from 1998-2003, though in 2003 I only attended the summer session. I ended up short of credits by some miserable amount, less than a single class, by the end of my traditional four year term. I walked with the rest of the 2002 graduates, then finished up in the summer. My degree is a Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies, the shortest major then offered. Ten classes constituted the entire list of requirements, which meant that the whole program could be completed in a year. To be sure, its brevity was not the deciding factor, as I still had to complete the same number of units to graduate as anyone else, but it didn't hurt.
College was actually a near thing for me. High School had been so painfully inane, and though my friends were near the top of the class, I never bothered to do much more than pass. I left Washington High with a sliver over 3.0, and an SAT around 1300. Respectable numbers, perhaps, but certainly not particularly impressive. I applied to a couple of places, most of which rejected me. When the dust cleared, Uncle Claude's Summer Camp was the best option, so I went. For those of you unfamiliar with the campus, UCSC is furher subdivided into a number of associated colleges. These colleges have their own identities, core academic class, and they each play host to one of the departments. I picked Stevenson College because it was the smallest of the colleges. I didn't want to have to deal with more people than I had to.
Recently I've begun to miss college. This strikes me as somewhat odd, because I really didn't like it when I was there. Santa Cruz is a rather provincal town. Most of the residents hate the college students, and most of the college students are perfectly hateable. Bars and the card club on Ocean aside, just about the entire town shuts down by ten. Late night food options are limited to the twenty-four hour Safeway and, on weekends, a similarly nocturnal Jack-in-the-Box. Many people put a lot of stock in the scenary, which is nice to be sure, but if you are looking for amenities than Santa Cruz isn't for you.
As wretched as I found the town, I think I may have disliked my peers even more. I spent two years in the dorms, and never again do I expect to be in such close proximity to such boundless stupidity. Life in the dorms was an experience, and one that, on the balance, I'm glad I had. But primarily what I took away was that everything ill I had thought of humanity was true, and then some. The later years were better, living off campus on Bay Street. There were five of us, not counting guests, in a house meant for no more than three. We ate microwaved bacon, bacon grease flavored rice, and pizza (with bacon). Taken together, our schedules were streched out such that at any given time, someone was awake. A few of us ran an on-line business selling items for Diablo II, which was popular at the time. Our website is actually still up. We played a lot of hardcore Diablo II; I had a Barbarian at level 91 before I stopped.
I can see what people say about the "best years of your life." For all my complaining, those were good years. I got to do a lot of interesting things. I stood in line for Star Wars: The Phantom Menance with a friend for twenty-two hours, watched the thing at midnight, and slept through class afterwards. I saw the look on someone's face when we ordered one-hundred hamburgers from McDonalds. They were thirty-nine cents at the time. I fooled around with a girl on a rooftop, officiated a drinking contest, suffered through terrible poetry, heard the worst rendition of "Uptown Girl" performed in the western hemosphere, and that was just Freshman year.
From where I'm sitting now, they were all good times, even the bad ones. I know I can't go back, and I'm not even sure I would if I could. But now that I can't, I've gained an appreciation for years I had thought, at the time, I couldn't get through fast enough.