A Letter Home from a Berkeley Summer

Dear Mom,

Everyone raises their eyebrows when I tell them I’m currently living in a fraternity house. My manager at Trader Joe’s was intrigued, and Aunt Kendall was slightly appalled. But we’re being safe here, I promise. There’s a room for anyone feeling symptoms to isolate themselves in, and most of us are taking advantage of the Berkeley COVID-19 Safe Students Study run by researchers on campus. We take our temperatures every day, submit them to a form, and get tested for free! The cotton swab test made me tear up a bit, but campus is working hard to come up with a plan for the upcoming semester, and if this helps them make sure my friends can return safely, then I’ll do it. 

While the frat life has been a bit of organized chaos, spending time in Berkeley has lifted my spirits. My days consist of walking around a quiet campus in the mornings, and stocking shelves with products in the afternoon. Even though this summer doesn’t include me getting some sun while lifeguarding or leading prospective students on tours of the campus I love, it’s still shaping up to be a great one. I gave my first virtual tour last week, and it went really well! A bit odd not being able to see people’s faces, but I’m excited to give high schoolers the chance to get a feel for Berkeley life. Plus, working off campus isn’t scary. I have met so many great people from all different walks of life, teammates and customers alike. I recognize people by their masks now- lots of creative patterns have come through. Someone at my register yesterday told me that there are only two operating urban transit methods with landmark status, and the San Francisco cable cars are one of them! So even though I’m not taking classes, I’m still learning.

My phone buzzes with links to zoom calls now. I’ve been working with the executive committee of my sorority to figure out how to safely open our home and recruit new members. We will be armed with lots of hand sanitizer and wipes, but I think we’ll be able to make it work. As a humanities major, I’m anticipating most of my classes being taught online, so the house will be a great space for learning about the sociology of culture and the history of television. Restaurants are beginning to reopen with outdoor seating, so I can grab a cup of coffee to clear my mind. It’s a replacement for walking to class- I still need to get my steps in!

It’s nice to see that dorms are still being built as I wander downtown to get to work. It’s a sign of progress. The Chancellor updates us on what’s going on and what plans her committees are working on for students. We’re moving forward.

I miss you, but thanks for letting me come back home to the bay. Hope helping Blake pack for college is going well!

Love, Kara

Author: Kara Gebhardt

I'm Kara and I'm a 2nd year from Valencia, CA studying Media Studies and Sociology. When I am not cheering on the Golden Bears with the UC Rally Committee, I can be found at my sorority, Alpha Chi Omega, or lifeguarding on campus. I also am interning for a wine public relations company! I enjoy the beach, dogs, and hanging out on Memorial Glade in the sunshine.