This Spring Break my best friend came to visit me all the way from Cambridge in the UK. It was interesting because while I had shown my parents around the city before I had yet to share this place with someone similar to me in views and age. When he arrived, he brought with him a preconception of what Berkeley was. Being the 5th most reputable school in the world means that most people have heard about our academic prowess, but it also means that Berkeley has a reputation to uphold in terms of its non-academic culture. Berkeley’s counter culture protests of the 60s, liberal ideologies, and great intellectual movements are all legendary. Berkeley the city should not be held independently of Berkeley the school. The city, while incredibly diverse, revolves around the school and is very much a college town. I personally feel it is a symbiotic relationship where the school gains its vibrancy from the city and vice versa.
But has that legend really stood the test of time?
I’ve been here for nearly two years and it is impossible to imagine that this city isn’t home. The memories of my first experience here in the city are now fading being replaced with the status quo. I no longer feel like a visitor but a true resident.
This is why I was so excited to have my friend here in Berkeley. It gave me the opportunity to see the city through someone else’s eyes, a chance to once again see what it feels like to first come into a city like this.
And I did see. My friend and I roamed the downtown area, ate around Telegraph Avenue, and even relaxed on campus. Everything I was used to was shocking and amazing to him. Aspects of my daily life I had begun to ignore became picture worthy. All in all, he gave me the ability to once again realize objectively what it was about Berkeley that was so unusual. Eccentricity apart, the Art Museum, independent coffee shops and abundant public murals really make the city so vibrant. Its no surprise that whenever I visit any family around the states I can’t help but feel that other cities are kind of… dull.
All of this personal reflection aside, I can’t imagine a better city to experience such a critical growing age in. It offers everything. Wherever life may take me, I know for a fact I will always consider this place my home away from home.
Oh and in case you are wondering, my friend was simply blown away by the city. He thought it ‘exceeded its reputation in every single way’.