I’m not going to lie… this definitely has not been your average semester and as a sophomore only being able to have experienced one full semester at Berkeley I’ve definitely longed for the days when I can sit in Pimentel surrounded by 600 fellow chemistry students clicking away on my iClicker. But for now, I’ll just have to settle for the Zoom polls submitted alongside faceless names on the screen. The one thing that has been maintaining some semblance of normalcy throughout all of this has been the decision to move back to Berkeley for the semester and live less than a five minute walk from campus. As I mentioned before, I am definitely not an expert on all things Berkeley life as I only had a half dozen months here before returning home, but I think it’s safe to say that the feeling of being on campus is anything but normal. That being said, this absence of normalcy has made way for a new appreciation and pride in calling myself a golden bear. Never before would I have discovered that the women’s faculty club has the perfect bench for a quiet read outside. Or which trees on Memorial Glade are the perfect distance apart to set up my hammock. Or even which streets around Berkeley are lined with the best persimmon trees to snatch on my run. This emptier campus has slowed down the hustle and bustle of the city as a whole and me right along with it. Don’t get me wrong… classes are still in full swing but the extended amounts of time inside have found me appreciating the outside that much more. Coming to Berkeley, nature was the last thing on anyone’s minds and the last thing I ever heard about the campus. Urban life? Yes. Academics? Yes. The occasional political protest? Of course. But the beauty of the Bay Area and the city of Berkeley in particular was never discussed. This oversight has been made countless times and was even made by me in my first months as a Berkeley student… but not anymore.
Often when I talk to people about what has changed in their neighborhoods since quarantine, a common theme is seeing people out and about who they’ve never seen before. Hidden neighbors coming out of hibernation who now go on daily walks with their families just to appreciate being outside for small parts of their days. This same phenomenon can be seen amongst the students of Berkeley. Never have I seen so many people take so much time to sit around campus just to read a book or talk with friends. For a lot of students, Berkeley’s campus is seen as a conglomeration of buildings that house lectures they are required to go to. Any stretch of land in between is simply on the way to the next google calendar appointment or class they are running late to. Now without that buzz of thousands of students milling around, the pathways and patches of grass between buildings have
become the reason people come to campus. There is a magic in seeing the campus and its students take a deep breath and slow things down a bit. I’m more than ready to see things return to the hustle and bustle that makes Berkeley a hub of innovation and changemakers, but for now I’ve been able to appreciate a culture of returning to simple things that might have otherwise been overlooked.