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Tamara Keith: Grad School Proves To Be No Walk in Park

By Tamara Keith, Public Affairs
Posted September 1, 1999

Photo: Tamara Keith

Tamara Keith.

When I signed my "intent to register" form for graduate school, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Getting my master's degree in journalism, I figured, would be much like getting my bachelor's in philosophy, except it would only take two years, and I wouldn't have to read the great works of dead geniuses.

Those delusions persisted all summer long. I took on extra jobs, made commitments to help out at my church, joined a recreational softball league and generally pretended that summer would never end.

So, when it was time for school to start, I didn't even have back-to-school jitters -- until I picked up the syllabus for J 200.

The following are my favorite excerpts from the syllabus:

"This class should be the number one priority in your life. You must be willing to put aside other pursuits, obligations, commitments and relationships, ESPECIALLY RELATIONSHIPS, for the next fifteen weeks."

"I allow one excuse and one excuse only for missing a deadline, and that is a death in the family: YOUR OWN."

Yes, drill sergeant.

Journalism 200 is affectionately referred to as "boot camp," and now I know why. In the week and a half since the semester started, I have already written 12 articles.

On the first day of class, I was sent to the Berkeley pier to "find the story." All I found was a guy gutting fish.

"There's nothing like the smell of fish guts in the evening," he said, and that became my lead. One day I covered both a poetry reading and a book reading. On another, I stood at the intersection of Telegraph and Bancroft trying to get quotes from passersby about affirmative action and sexually transmitted diseases.

As if the out-of-class workload weren't enough, class itself is a little hellish. My 10 classmates and I have to be in class three days a week at 7:30 a.m., having already read the local papers and dressed in proper professional attire.

This is all very different from my undergraduate days -- when I was known to wear pajamas to my 8 a.m. discussion sections, skip lectures to stay at work, and sleep through all but 20 minutes of my 90-minute Shakespeare class.

I was a master at photocopying other people's notes. I got pretty good at finishing term papers at the eleventh hour -- in time to get to class and turn them in before the professor finished his lecture. This behavior may sound irresponsible or unusual, but my peers, it was the status quo.

I may still hang out at the same greasy restaurants I did as an undergrad, but I'm a big kid now, and I guess that comes with new responsibilities. It looks like I had better invest in a couple of nice suits and a high-powered alarm clock.

Tamara Keith is a student at the Graduate School of Journalism.


September 1 - 7, 1999 (Volume 28, Number 4)
Copyright 1999, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
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