Thursday, July 10, 2014

Going Back to College

Every summer, a hundred Brazilian adolescents descend on UCLA’s dormitories to study English. When one gets sick, a counselor phones April Travel Insurance which phones me.

Middle-class teenagers suffer respiratory infections, upset stomachs, and minor injuries, so, once I learned to deal with UCLA’s draconian parking policy, I found these easy visits.

I graduated UCLA fifty years ago, and returning is a strange experience. Crowds outside the dormitories shriek, laugh, and chatter. It sounds like a kindergarten. Were we that noisy? There's nothing strange about the women's fashions, but the men look like dorks. My generation had long hair and tight clothes. Nowadays it’s short hair and baggy clothes. They wear shorts. Don’t they realize how silly they look? We kept books in lockers. Now everyone has a backpack. Especially odd is the number of Asians who make up over a third of the enrollment. They speak perfect English, so they’re clearly American. Where were they when I attended?

In my day, when you entered a university building, you found a door and entered. Today all doors except the main entrance are locked. Students manning the front desk consider names and room numbers privileged information. Using the elevator requires a key which all students carry. This is identical to hotel security and probably no more effective.

On arriving, I phone a counselor who comes down to escort me. The dorm rooms are tinier than I remember, and little studying occurs because the desks are piled with personal items. Delivering medical care is easy, but it’s summer, and foreigners believe that air conditioning is unhealthy, so the rooms are hot.      

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