Back to School, After a Break in Silicon Valley

Photo: Wonderlane/Flickr

When I took a break from college to work at a multinational tech company in Silicon Valley, I told everyone I’d be gone for a year.

But yesterday, I just ordered $300 worth of textbooks from Amazon — because I’ve decided to start school again in January.

You may be thinking, “Wow, that bad, huh?”

Au contraire, my friend! I’m not returning to school nine months early because I hated “the real world.” I’m returning to school because I loved it.

Each day, I dreaded college a little bit more, and I started thinking about not returning at all. But I’ve already sunk almost 30 grand of my own money into my degree, so I’m sucking it up, taking 40 units in two quarters (a full load would be 32), and graduating this June.

Here’s my time in San Jose, by the numbers:

Money spent on lunches with co-workers: $400

When you’re a student going out with your older co-workers, they usually snag the bill. When you’re a regular employee (albeit a young one) going out with your older co-workers, they expect you to pay your share.

At first, spending $30 a week on restaurant lunches alone felt, well, irresponsible. But it was fun! And I had to remind myself that I wasn’t on a student budget anymore. If my colleagues wanted a nice sushi lunch once or twice a week, I could afford to go along.

Money spent on dinner dates: $40

I went on just two dates during my time in Silicon Valley. Turns out that when the median age in your office is 40 — and you spend most of your time at work — it’s really, really hard to meet guys born within eight years of you.

But I’m not too excited about my romantic prospects when I return to school. Will I be able to relate to anyone who still does keg stands? Probably not.

Number of times I used a cleaning service: 12

My employers offered free housecleaning.

Number of times I felt icky about using a cleaning service: 12

People say the weirdness of paying someone else to come into your apartment and clean the gook off your shower wears off, but I never stopped feeling gross about it.

That doesn’t mean I’m looking forward to cleaning my own gook when I get back to Cal Poly.

Number of hours spent dancing to Britney Spears in my apartment: 14?

This was my first time living completely alone: no parents, no roommates, no sisters.

I loved it. I did all the normal home alone stuff: ate random stuff out of jars while standing in front of the fridge in my underwear, making coffee (loudly) in the morning because I didn’t have to worry about waking anyone up, and saying jubilantly to friends, “Let’s go to my place!”

Number of meals I prepared at home: 8

I’m not kidding. Despite having, for the first time, a kitchen all to myself (yet another perk of living solo), the only appliances I touched were the coffee-pot, the microwave, and the fridge.

For some reason, I always thought I liked to cook. But when I found myself untethered from my restrictive budget, I discovered that it’s way nicer having someone else prepare your food. There was a three-week period where I ate tacos for lunch and falafel for dinner every. single. day.

Money spent on Ubers and plane tickets before finally getting my license: $900

As I wrote in my previous article, I moved to San Jose without a driver’s license. (Not on purpose: I failed my driver’s test.) And then I flew back home to take it again… and failed it again.

Finally, on the third try, I passed — but not before spending a nauseatingly large amount on plane tickets and Uber rides.

Number of cars I bought: One

Oh, and then the head gasket in my 1997 Toyota 4runner blew. I did not want to take another Uber — especially now that I could officially drive — so I ponied up for a 2016 Toyota Corolla.

I picked that car by Googling “most reliable car ever” and clicking on the first result. Yeah, having my car break down in a rural stretch on the 110 was just a little traumatizing.

Number of freelance articles I wrote: Approximately one billion

In case you’re wondering how I was able to afford the meals, the Ubers, and the car, the answer is: freelance writing! I wrote during breakfast and dinner, somehow managing to churn out three articles a day. It’s pretty sweet to sit in my new car and think, Hey, these random symbols I typed on a keyboard paid for this.

Numbers of days until I return to Cal Poly: Two

Wish me luck!

Previously: Taking a Year off from College and Moving to Silicon Valley; Part II

Aja Frost is a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo who loves writing… and dessert. Follow her on Twitter @ajavuu.

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