Cal Teaches Adulting

This one-unit pass-fail life skills-class — conceived by Belle Lau and Jenny Zhou — gives college kids insights into becoming successful adults.


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The road to adulthood, as those of us who may or may not still be on it, is fraught with hella potential pitfalls. Should you get into that Maui timeshare? How about the Mustang convertible? No one knows this better than today’s crop of fresh-faced college kids, many of whom have been forced to take on massive debt to complete their degrees. Learning to manage finances, time, and other aspects of life is not necessarily a skill learned before young adults find themselves in college on their own for the first time. To ease this transition and help prepare their classmates for the very real challenges they’ll face in the big, bad adult world. earlier this year Cal students Belle Lau and Jenny Zhou launched the school’s very first Adulting class. Now in its second semester, the weekly lecture series offered through the student-run DeCal program, features experts on time management, health, and fitness, how to get a job, and even paying Uncle Sam. Since I’m still working on transitioning into full-time adulthood, I tracked down Lau recently to see if she had any pointers for me.

Paul Kilduff: When you tell people about this class, do they roll their eyes? What kind of reaction do you get?

Belle Lau: A lot of people don’t know anything about the class and just make opinions based off of the idea. The thing, is we’re not teaching people chores like how to do your laundry, how to do your dishes. If we’re going to be spending an hour and a half each week to teach people something that will be valuable for the rest of their lives, we wouldn’t want to just teach them one simple thing like that they could learn on their own. We’re trying to teach them bigger picture topics like mental health, time management, and how to manage your money, not how to change the oil in your car.

PK: I read that didn’t happen because there’s not enough literature about it? Have you ever been to Jiffy Lube? Lot of great pamphlets there to peruse.

BL: It was more that we had to come up with topics that we could find academic resources for and academic reading to make this class more academic. But also my co-facilitator and I both don’t have access to a car. Most college students don’t have cars. So at this very moment, we don’t feel like it’s important.

PK: Having owned several cars, I can attest to the fact that you don’t want to be messing around with changing oil. Take it from me, kid, it’s a huge mess, and then you’ve got all this cruddy oil you have to take someplace to recycle. It’s worth the 30 bucks to let a highly trained professional take care of it. And sometimes they even vacuum your car as well.

BL: Yeah, I figured I would do that in the future anyway.

PK: One thing that does make a lot sense to do yourself is cook — as I’m sure you know you can really blow your budget eating out all the time.

BL: Oh, yeah, especially during finals week, I’m like, “I have no time to cook.” I just spend for every meal, and it adds up super quickly. You spend $15 on one meal. Typically if I cook for myself, I’ll probably spend $40 for groceries for that week. It’s so much cheaper to cook. I just meal prep. I cook one thing and I just eat that for the whole week. You’ve got to sacrifice. It’s boring eating the same thing every day, but it saves so much money.

PK: Do you get units for taking the class?

BL: Yeah, it’s one unit, pass, no pass.

PK: Has anyone failed adulting? I know it can happen later in life.

BL: Well, last semester nobody failed, because we tend to make it pretty easy to pass the class. You just need a C minus. We make it pretty easy because we don’t want people to be concerned about their grades in this class. We’d rather focus more on the learning aspect of it than, “Oh, I need to make sure that this essay that I have to write is really good.”

PK: OK, so you have to actually write essays.

BL: It’s just the one essay, just two pages.

PK: Man, I would have been all over that one back in my college days. Too bad you can’t major in it. But, it’s so popular that you can’t even get into the class, right?

BL: No, there were 60 spots this semester and over 200 applications, so it was pretty hard.

PK: Does becoming an adult mean being far less spontaneous?

BL: I actually am a hardcore planner. I need to put it in my calendar. I need to make sure what time we’re meeting and where we’re meeting. So I’m not as spontaneous, so it’s not as daunting for me because I’m already like that.

PK: So you’re already an adult, is that what you’re telling me?

BL: Yeah.

PK: You don’t need this class at all. You’re already putting stuff in your planner. Wow. I just started doing that, and I’m, well, never mind how old I am. 

BL: I’m going to forget if I don’t write it down.

PK: Do you find that some of your fellow students don’t really plan? They’re just winging it day in and day out?

BL: Oh, yeah, there’s definitely a lot of people like that. They’re just like go with the flow. They’re random like, “Oh, you want to go to San Francisco?” And I’m like, “You have to have told me this a week ago.”

PK: Do you consider zip lining to be an acceptable activity for an adult?

BL: Zip lining?

PK: Yeah, is that adulting?

BL: Are you asking like literally zip lining?

PK: Right, like when you’re in Hawaii and you go over a canyon hanging on a wire. Is that something an adult would do?

BL: I feel like that’s not necessarily an adulting thing. That’s an activity for someone who’s not afraid of heights.

PK: Good answer. I’m just trying to think of what would be the most irresponsible thing you could do, and zip lining came to mind. I actually am fascinated by zip lining. I’ve never done it,  and I do have a fear of heights, so I doubt I ever will, but it does look like a tremendous amount of fun. At the same time, it seems pretty dangerous, and I don’t know if I’d recommend it to anybody.

BL: Oh, really? I did it before in Hawaii. It was a lot of fun.

PK: So you would continue to zip line as an adult?

BL: Yes, I would. Honestly, when I went zip lining, everybody was at least 10 years older.

 

Got an idea for The Kilduff File? E-mail Paul Kilduff at PKilduff350@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared in our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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