22 August 2010

UCLA - goodbye!

I spent only one year at UCLA.  It was, nevertheless, of some importance to me as it settled me in as a University student.  I was, I thought, going to be an astronomer.  This had been my intention from primary school.  Nevertheless, I was fascinated by language.  A University of California PhD at the time had a language requirement: either three semesters of one language, or two semesters each of two.

I had done four years of high school French.  I found that I could substitute that as a prerequisite for first-semester French, so I took the second semester of French, believing - incorrectly, I am sure - that taking one semester of French, even at a more advance level, would satisfy the two semesters requirement for one language, and I studied Russian both semesters of my first year.

It is interesting that I chose Russian.  Russian is not particularly important for astronomy.  German would surely have been of more use.  This reflects something of the atmosphere of that time.  America had been at war - a cold war, to be sure, but a war nonetheless - with Russia - with the Soviet Union, to be more accurate - since the end of the Second World War.  I think it not surprising that I studied Russian.  In the 1950s we were presented with a great many articles in magazines like Life about the superiority of Russian education, medicine, and other arts.  Robert Heinlein, in at least one novel (Farnham's Freehold), has his protagonist learn Russian.  So I studied Russian in addition to French.

Some time during that academic year - September, 1960 - May, 1961 - I applied to be admitted as an astronomy undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley, and was accepted.

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