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Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

Column: Young and hungry

I’ve written a lot about what it’s like being an international student in Davis, including the academic side. But I haven’t talked much about the practicalities of student living. So, how fun of a place is Davis from an outside perspective?

In Lithuanian, we have these two words: “studijuoti” and “studentauti.”  Both describes the activity of students, but while the first one simply means “to study,” the second one applies when studies become just a secondary activity and being at university is simply an excuse to party.

Before coming to Davis I was definitely in the first group. I wasn’t too nerdy, but going out three nights in a row was unheard of. Having fun is not a bad thing, but there needs to be a balance. I’ve been working hard on it this year and things have changed a bit since, even prompting my mom to blurt, “Finally you have some social life, too.”

To be honest, this comment was entirely based on the increased activity on my Facebook account (and yes, I still have my mom among my friends). People just feel the need to capture every single moment of our year abroad and, while sometimes silly, I think that’s completely understandable.

But excessive picture-taking is only part of the story. Me being in the picture — that’s what changed. I’m still studying a lot, and studies definitely come first. But I guess the “it’s only one year” thing is powerful enough to make me say yes much more often and to more things. And yet I’m staying in tonight writing this column, while others are having $1 pizza at Uncle Vito’s. Oh, the irony!

Let’s admit it, for many students going out and having fun are strongly associated with alcohol. Now in most countries the legal drinking age is 18, which seems reasonable. But then we come here and some of us are under 21. We can’t help but curse the seemingly stupid laws that don’t allow us to spend the night at the bar with our friends, even when we don’t have any interest in drinking.

American students have come up with a perfect solution to this “problem,” though — house parties! I haven’t been to so many house parties since middle school when everyone was having a mandatory birthday at their place. But who didn’t love those?

Same with house parties now. It’s much more casual (you can wear funky wool socks and drink from a cup that says “A nice Jewish boy”), there’s always lots of food (either salty junk or amazing homemade Chinese), discussions are often very interesting (from linguistics to Eurovision) and the DJ will always play the song you want.

We even had a house party for my 21st in February, where cakes were made, poetry written, salsa danced and karaoke played. What bar or club could offer all that in one night? Plus the thrill that police visits offer. I still vividly remember fleeing from our very first house party here due to a police scare. Fun times!

When I mentioned this week’s topic to one of my friends, she insisted that I also write about food. I love food but it also presents tons of problems, especially for students, such as eating healthy without spending too much money and trying to learn how to cook without giving up and eating out. Add the idealism of being a budding vegetarian or environmentalist, and each meal becomes a nightmare.

What I don’t like here is grocery shopping. I got used to that a little bit, but at first all that corn syrup, chemicals, hormones and GMOs looked very discouraging. As a result I’ve been eating out a lot, discovering all these new cuisines and tastes. Also, the fruit and veg stalls at Farmers Market are my favorites. I still can’t believe that oranges and kiwis are grown in the local area, and pluots and persimmons were totally new to me.

Of course, being a student is so much more than just drinking and eating. But it’s lunches on the Quad and pub crawls in downtown at night – not my classes, unfinished assignments or applications for internships – that I look forward to the most when I start my day.

You can reach KRISTINA SIMONAITYTE at ksimonaityte@ucdavis.edu.


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