Since I heard about Main Street UCI in 2010, I have been thinking about what to write for the Archives. I keep coming back to different variations of the same thing and that is where it all began.
Four months ago, I was staring hard at my then-new computer, trying to produce a paper. I’d like to say that I vomited brilliance and oozed genius and that my mind was racing, with fingers burning up the keyboard, from the magnificence which I poured into this policy paper. However, that that was not true. I stared at the bare walls of my apartment and thought about cooking dinner, but that would involve irritating the over-active fire alarm from hell. Then, all of these concerns melted away. I remember looking out my window from the University of California Washington Center on Rhode Island Ave. I am really here. I am living in Washington D.C. I thought about what had led me here and every time, I come back to summer 2010 at the University of California, Irvine.
Where it all began…
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GIVE BACK TO YOUR COMMUNITY?
That is actually how I remember it. I was sitting in that small stuffy room in the Social Science Plaza B, eyelids threatening to close, and suddenly snapped awake by the question. I looked around the room and none of us wanted to raise our hands to answer the question. It was rhetorical, right? Or was it? I breathed a sigh of relief as Dr. Sereseres walked past me and faced Manny who sat directly across from me. Just as I thought that I was safe…
Eileen! How are you going to give back to your community?
The Summer Academic Enrichment Program. S-A-E-P.
During the informational panel in February 2010, I was warned that it would be intense.
Nothing that I couldn’t handle, I’m sure….
We would get little sleep.
Story of my life, puh-leez….
We need to work together.
Not if I could help it….
And that we would change.
Yeah…sure in 5 weeks, yeah, right.
I entered SAEP determined to conquer it.
There was no wasted time. Within the first few hours of moving into the Arroyo Vista complex that first Sunday, Dr. Christopherson came over and we were assigned research topics. We received our first batch of readings and were told to be ready for Monday morning’s classes.
Week 1: The Horror! The Horror!
Perhaps, our first week was not that dramatic, but it was a shock. A collective shudder ran through the group as we realized that our first class would be at 8:00am and that it would be statistics. I left Dr. Scavio’s class clutching an inch of papers to study and it was only the first day. Also, did I mention the weekly tests?
The workload increased exponentially throughout the day. We were handed a 3 page article (with miniscule font) and were given 5 minutes to read, analyze, and discuss with the class. We were divided into collaborative learning groups (CLG) of 3. Within our CLG’s, every week, we were responsible for reading an assigned book and writing a group book report. And to make the point of group learning and time management, we were given one book and told that there would be consequences for any attempts to procure more. In addition, we had to prepare for a 1 ½ to 2 hour debate on Saturdays. Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse. Dr. Christopherson let us know that we’d be writing a research proposal and that the introduction was due on Thursday. And classes ended at 6:00p that night. Had I known that that would be one of the earliest nights that we would get out, I might have panicked sooner.
There was no time for the gym. There was no time for socialization. There was no time for going out. There was only SAEP. The mandatory weekly socials were mandatory. We complained and groaned that we could not take homework or study materials with us. We begged to not go to the movies and to barbecues, wishing that we could finish our work. The response was universal. You need to work together and manage your time better.
Week 2: Resistance?
We learned the cost of not keeping up with readings. Due dates and schedules became unpredictable as spontaneous writing assignments would be assigned and due by midnight. There is only so much reading that can be done with an unpredictable schedule. The work that we had put off had finally caught up with us.
We had a 3 inch binder for our materials, yet it was already half full! Anyone resistant to group work gave way to the onslaught of work. We turned to our CLG’s for support, studying late into the night and dividing up the work. I remember several nights where dinner was (courtesy of Javier and Eduardo) Dino Nuggets stacked in the shape of a pyramid. For some reason, I have never looked at Dino Nuggets the same way since then.
I stopped going up the stairs to my bedroom. I ended up sleeping wherever I happened to be studying last, and one time that was on the floor of the study room.
Coffee became my best friend. Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.
Week 3 onward: Acceptance
It’s amazing what can happen in 3 weeks. It became a routine at this point to go to lunch, with our articles, reading as we waited in line. We learned to walk, read, and somehow eat at the same time. It takes 3 weeks to change a habit and by that time, we stopped resisting and accepted our fate as doomed researchers, condemned to deadlines and constant work. Just do it? Yeah, we did it.
I mentioned at the beginning that I was determined to conquer SAEP. That didn’t exactly happen. But I accomplished something better. I conquered my fear of statistics, public speaking, and of research. I look back on that summer and think about the impact of SAEP on my life.
I thought about all of this as I sat inside my dorm room. I smile to myself as I think about how these past 2 years have been the most busy and satisfying academic years of my life. They were right. I couldn’t do it alone and I have never been more proud of that.
UCI Alumna 2012