Missin’ UCI Like Candy

My time at UC Irvine began almost two years ago when I arrived as a slightly disinterested transfer student, and the plan at that point was pretty straightfo rward. I envisioned myself commuting to school every day, heading to class with maybe a quick stop for coffee beforehand, then driving back home to chill out with my cats, just like I did at community college. I had already been informed that everyone at UCI was “anti-social” anyway, so I figured it would be easy enough.

But that was then. As the end nears, I can honestly say that back when I waited 20 minutes for my very first overpriced latte at the Student Center Starbucks, I had no idea how great these two years would be. I’ve associated with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met, I’ve traveled halfway across the world on the UCI community’s dime and I’ve learned more than I ever thought possible — all without dropping a single coin on Ring Road-issued boba or Korean BBQ.

Within a few weeks of arriving at UCI, I started writing for the New University. At the time, I was just looking for a non-blog forum to spread my Euro-socialist views on the American health care system, but that didn’t last long. In a sudden turn of events, it became apparent that the lack of grammatical errors in my articles qualified me for the Associate Opinion Editor position, and I caught a break when the previous Opinion Slave transferred to a different school. When I accepted the position, I had no idea what I was getting myself into – but looking back, I’m so glad I took it.

Ever since then, I have done my part to continue the New University Opinion section’s long-standing tradition of royally pissing people off — and pissing on some of the finest UCI institutions with sub-par prose. Nothing on campus was safe from our watchful and witty eyes. We’ve criticized just about everything in sight since I’ve been here, and at times it has paid off and produced tangible change on campus. Of course, at other times, it has earned us a shit-storm of negative reaction, but I take that as a sign that we did something right.

To those of you who wrote for the Opinion section this year, thank you for your contributions. Your many errors in spelling and grammar have caused our digital red pens to metaphorically run out of ink many times. I owe a special thank you to my Associate Opinion Editor, Mike Boileau, for keeping our Editorial Board meetings levelheaded, for never ceasing to bring the LOLs and for making a novice audiophile out of me. Sound quality is a priority, bro.

The only challenging aspect of the Opinion Editor’s job is the duty to edit and print articles you completely disagree with, and I hope I have done that well. For those of you who submitted articles that were never printed, I wish I had better words with which to console you. Either it was a spacing issue — because there is so much demand to write for our esteemed publication — or you just don’t understand the basic structure of a classical argument. Search “dispositio” on Wikipedia, read the entry and try again next year.

I suppose I should do the typical thank you tour. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my professors, especially Jack Miles, Joseph McKenna and Daniel Brunstetter. You have put up with my elementary-level questions at office hours and coffee breaks, you have taught me how to do real research in the age of Google and you have encouraged me with new ideas when I had nothing left in the queue. In the process, I have received what I can honestly say is a world-class education in the obscure major I picked on a whim while filling out my application to UCI. Most importantly, you have taught me to question everything, and I will continue to do that for the rest of my life.

I also want to give a shout-out to the Olive Tree Initiative, which is by far the best student organization on campus. The two and a half weeks I spent in Israel, Jordan and Palestine on the OTI trip last summer changed my life, and I can honestly say that nothing else I have experienced at UCI has more fully embodied what an education should be than OTI. To the creative energy machine that is Daniel Wehrenfennig, and to everyone else involved with the Olive Tree Initiative, thanks for putting up with me and keep up the good work. It’s no picnic, but when so many around us have been part of the problem, rest assured that you are part of the solution.

As for the politically incorrect and irreverent bunch that has been the 2010-11 New University staff, thank you for everything. Whether it was Nikki Jee teaching us all the value of a good GPS or Traci Louie instructing us on the various imaginary quadrants of the City of Torrance, you have each changed my life in some way, and I am going to miss keeping the Sabbath day unholy with all of you. I have to give a shout-out to our Editor-in-Chief, David Gao, for demonstrating his mastery of words, not just through his stellar editing, but also by his epic use of puns and Jedi Master-level performance on smartphone word games. And we all know that Traci Garling Lee wins the New University MVP this year for her passion and devotion when so many others would have DGAFed. I don’t know anyone more dedicated to their chosen craft than she is — unless you count my cat’s dedication to scratching the shit out of my couches and making it impossible to have friends over.

As much as we all complained about how much Irvine sucks, I think we are all going to miss this place. As cookie-cutter as this town can be at times, this is where we made our college memories — OK, here and in LA every weekend. Sure, it would have been nice to have more than two dining options after 10:00 p.m., but after having met the amazing people I count as my friends here at UCI, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.

So, here’s to you, UCI. It’s been quite a ride, and I’ll always remember the laughs, the lessons and the love. I’m a better person because of the people I have met and the things I have experienced here, so maybe it really was worth the overpriced parking after all.

But really, it wasn’t. Nothing could ever be worth the upwards of $1,000 that I personally dropped on parking permits. Let’s hope the higher-ups get that parking disaster on lock before next year’s freshmen revolt.

Charles Hicks is a fourth-year religious studies major. He can be reached at cbhicks@uci.edu.