The Odd-yssey: From Detroit to Santa Cruz

First year sociology PhD student Earl Hidayetoğlu shares the trials and tribulations he experienced moving from Michigan to Santa Cruz.

January 15, 2014

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Earl before he moved to Santa Cruz.
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Earl after he moved to Santa Cruz (When in Rome, right?).

So you just touched down at San Jose Mineta Airport, or maybe – like the geo-wizard (read: idiot) you are – you flew into San Francisco International. Either way, you pull your wallet out: it’s empty. You pull your phone out and check your inbox: it too is empty. Five minutes and as many airplane mini-napkins later your teardrop reservoir is empty. It’s day one of life as a graduate student and you’re already aboard the proverbial “struggle bus”.

You’ve moved from some medium-sized town with an Arcadian name like Slaughter Beach, Kill Devil Hills or Intercourse, Pennsylvania. Between sips from the two mini wine bottles you purloined from your flight neighbor, you cogitate the coming year and such questions as: “F**k, where am I going to live?” and “Whence henceforth shall cometh mine dope?” Consider the following lest you find yourself in a new state sans food, shelter or dope (kidding, Regents. Relax).

I came to UCSC from Michigan four months ago. Upon arrival I had only a handful of friends in the Bay Area - none within 30 minutes of “The Cruz” - and between 5-7 words of Spanish in my vocabulary – most gleaned from Taco Bell’s Value Menu. Literally half of my high school went to my undergraduate university so moving here was definitely a social challenge unlike any before. Fortunately, everyone I’ve met in and outside of my department (Sociology) is wonderful and “willing” to hangout or at least have a cup of coffee out of pity, sympathy or some other emotion on that end of the Emotional Spectrum. Graduate school is, ineluctably, isolating so make an effort to befriend your classmates etc. etc.

Moving to Santa Cruz from out-of-state (out-of-country for you foreigners) is, aesthetically, un-regrettable. But if you’re considering it you should also seriously consider moving at least a few weeks before the start of classes. Why? Because the DMV. The DMV is the part of Hell (levels 10-15) into which Dante and Virgil were too scared to venture. Incoming non-resident UCSC students will inevitably burn a few days at the DMV getting a license/registering a vehicle/losing faith in humanity/you get the idea. Moving here just before the start of school is a terrible idea as, in addition to reading, exploring, grocery shopping and finding a reliable dope connection (kidding…?), you’ll have Lucifer and his minions to deal with. Just move early.

But before your dance with the devil, you’ll need a place to call home. I had a strange but worthwhile experience finding off-campus housing long-distance. The process entailed a handful of awkward Skype interviews and calls to shady craigslist dudes with names like Miloš and Jud, but I eventually secured a place for half the cost of university housing. I found a wonderful resource in the UCSC housing portal and I suggest any Slug – new or otherwise – complement their craigslist’ing with it. If you’re new to California’s central coast like I am, know you’re competing for housing literally with dozens of gorgeous sun kissed surfer types and if you’re lucky enough to land an interview and it’s on Skype – like many are - you should insist your computer’s camera is “broken” or that it’s “asleep”; it is nowise functional and you’re super sorry about that.

In conclusion (and seriousness), I give Santa Cruz the city an emphatic endorsement. It is a privilege to have access to an ocean, mountains and a fantastic university replete with so many outlets for all kinds of expression. My transition to this new state – DMV excepted – has been nothing but exciting. The best advice I with slightly-more-than-a quarter’s-worth of graduate student experience can convey to you is to anticipate the Himalayan haystacks of reading and work you will face and to make sure you include fun things on your planner whenever possible; stay busy. There’s a fantastic student radio station here: get involved. There are clubs and groups of all assort: go knit/stack cups/shoot “hoops”/whatever the cool kids do these days. Alas, I’ve run out of funny things to say and can only write in an avuncular way for so long. Thanks for reading.