@UCSD: An Alumni Publication

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Cross Purpose

Archive
 

Features May 2004: Volume 1, Number 2
   

From 'H' House to 'H' Street
by Robin Pratt

 
     

The other evening I received a call from the UCSD Alumni Association. The caller confirmed the basics: Let’s see, you graduated in 1985 from Muir college with a degree in Psychology ... He asked if I had received a copy of the new Alumni Publication this year? Yes, I told him, in fact I thought it was a great magazine ... and about time, too. Then he asked me the big question: Are you currently working in your field? I think that’s how he worded it. And to be honest, I almost laughed. I am not a practicing psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor or social worker. I don’t do psychology research. “No, not really,” I told him. “I’m a freelance writer.”

Days went by and this question echoed in my mind. Are you using your degree? Maybe that’s actually what he asked. Now, that’s a slightly different question, and other answers began to form. Everyday I negotiate, motivate, and promote teamwork—in my work and at home. I know how to phrase questions to encourage someone to offer more valuable information. Those are definitely skills I attribute to the focus of my degree. But I’ve had so many detours along the way, it seems I’ve forgotten how much my college experience has contributed to who I am.

One reason I chose Muir College was that the curriculum required developing a broad base of knowledge. Like other Muir students, I was able to explore a wide range of courses before deciding on my major, including computer science, music and writing. And even though I’m not actually working in my field, I rely on knowledge about those subjects in the work I do everyday.

Weeks passed and the big question would not leave me alone. How did he say it again, exactly? Are you using your experience at UCSD? If he’d phrased it that way, I may have had more to say. Classes for my major presented theories and case histories about human behavior and child development; others focused on how to dig up almost any kind of information I needed. I learned the importance of being critical of information until I’d found agreement from other sources. My freelance work relies on all these skills, whether I’m writing about the challenges of parenting, or doing research for an education or health article.

What about my experience living in the dorms? I considered how much of that has influenced my life. Living in such close quarters, I was forced to learn some basic social skills, like the balance between when to voice a complaint, and when to be tolerant. And being a House Advisor for ‘H’ House during my Jr. year forced me to learn to balance school and work. Although it required patience, being part of the Muir community always meant there was someone around to join for a study-break, dinner, or a game of frisbee out on the quad.

The other day my neighbor knocked on the door, and asked to borrow his spare key. My family keeps a basket of keys — left from when we’ve fed our neighbors’ animals or watched their houses during vacation, and over the years our friends have asked us to keep their spare keys for emergencies. As I handed my neighbor his key, I realized I’ve somehow become the ‘HA on duty’ again, only not for ‘H’ House anymore. I live on ‘H’ Street now—no kidding.

So if I had that phone call again, I’d have a lot more to say this time. Or maybe, now that I’ve mulled it over, I could just sum it up: Getting my degree from UCSD was a great experience. I’ve always done better when I’ve got time to think carefully about my answers (that phone call was almost a month ago!). Maybe that’s why I write ...

Robin Pratt is a freelance writer. She lives in Salt Lake City.

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John Muir College
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Student Life at Muir
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"...being part of the Muir community always meant there was someone around to join for a study-break, dinner, or a game of frisbee out on the quad. "