Keep Dancing Like the Class of 2022: My Years At Berkeley As Described By Taylor Swift Albums

Before I was a Cal fan, I was a Taylor Swift fan. While our graduation speaker wasn’t Taylor Swift (I almost flew to NYU just to see the queen get an honorary degree), I still have found many valuable lessons in her songs that relate to my time at Berkeley. Most of the time I was jamming to her songs on the way to class, or getting hyped on a Friday night to her catchy tunes. I can see my four years through the eyes and ears of her song lyrics. Every high and low could be remedied somewhat by listening to Taylor’s discography. 

Freshman year was a blur of new activities, faces, and challenges that pushed me into learning something new about myself. I joined a sorority, became a member of Rally Comm, decided on a major, braved the 30,000 person campus after a semester of the Fall Program for Freshmen, met a ton of new people during Golden Bear Orientation, got an on-campus job, went to office hours, and celebrated all my accomplishments during the weekends. I took BART to San Francisco, cut my hair while sitting on the dorm room floor, and got my second piercings. But I also spilled my hot chocolate everywhere during my first discussion section of the spring semester, got a C on my dinosaurs midterm, and went on some bad dates at the dining hall. At the beginning of freshman year, I was scared to my wit’s end, but by the end, I was Fearless. 

Kara on Cal Day holding a Cal sign in front of the Campanile.
Cal Day 2018.

Fearless (Taylor’s Version) is nostalgic, yet anticipatory of what’s to come. It was a Love Story as I started seeing more and more of campus. I had the Best Day appreciating the new people in my life and the things I got to experience with them. You Belong With Me was the perfect slumber party song for dancing at 2 am with my newfound best friends. White Horse is knowing that sometimes you have to let something go to become your best self, and I knew I would Change just by growing on my own and leaving fate up to the world. Everything changed when I stepped foot into my next four years, and the freshman year magic made me dance in a storm in my best dress fearless. 

And when I returned for sophomore year, I was more confident in myself and my abilities. I was on the board of several clubs, was finally out of the dorms, and didn’t have to eat dining hall food. Most importantly, I wasn’t a freshman anymore. I knew the lay of the land, had declared one of my majors, and was ready to take on the world. I had friends that I had been waiting all summer to see, and couldn’t wait for the familiarity of campus landmarks. I started dating someone (and still am) and started my job as a campus ambassador. There were new experiences and continuations of previous ones. It was Welcome to Berkeley, It’s Been Waiting For You. 

So even though it was the year 2019, it was also the album 1989. It was a dance party, a celebration, and I remember it with joy in my heart. Sophomore year was the time to Shake It Off and embrace my passions. Now, I Know Places, like paninis at Brown’s and pasta at Italian Homemade. My Berkeley bubble was expanding, so instead of a Blank Space I had a solid map of the area in my head. I traveled to Tahoe and Santa Cruz, and explored more of what Berkeley had to offer. It was more than my Wildest Dreams, and I danced my way through the ups and downs, much like Taylor in 1989

Junior year gets tricky. Spending the entire year online in my four bedroom two bathroom apartment that I rented with six other friends on Southside while working at Trader Joe’s was something I never would’ve anticipated. I was supposed to study abroad in Amsterdam, land an exciting internship, and live in AXO with a view of the Golden Gate bridge lulling me to sleep every night. It was supposed to be friends turning 21, going to art museums around the bay for my history of art class, and cheering on the Golden Bears during the Big Game at home. I mourn for what was supposed to be, but I know that I became a different person because of the lessons I learned during this time. 

That’s why junior year is Red (Taylor’s Version). Not only is it the color of Stanford (our rival), but the album also a reminder of what could have been. It got lost in translation, I asked for too much. No matter how many times I wished for it to go back to normal, Everything Has Changed. Who knew that March 2020 would be The Last Time that things made sense, and having to leave and watching all my friends through tiny zoom boxes was Sad Beautiful Tragic. I remember it All Too Well, but I still see that I’m The Lucky One to have been able to be in Berkeley during the campus’ quietness for the world to Begin Again

But as I see now, everything will be alright for the Class of 2022. Senior year was back in person, and graduation was no longer a distant thought away but something in close imagination. There’s a certain sadness, nervousness, and anticipation that comes with being a senior. You’ve waited so long to be at this point, but now you think you might puke if you start to think too much about the future. I had a familiar feeling to one from senior year of high school – uncertainty of what’s next. I wanted to enjoy every day, go to class as much as possible to soak up all the knowledge, and take every opportunity offered to me. It was my self-dubbed “year of yolo” because this was the 1.

Taylor has matured, and so have I. So, senior year is folklore – not only a time for storytelling of how Berkeley looked before the pandemic, but also a way of weaving new memories as the best days of our lives started to count down all too fast and we saw every version of ourselves in a mirrorball of reflections on our growth. 

Yes, there were several times where my tears ricochet, but they were for the beautiful times I had on campus and the wonderful people I met. I did everything I could, and I mean everything – some definitely said I was a mad woman for trying to do it all. I would bounce between my wine class and my wine internship, then would run up to AXO for food and back down the hill for a Rally Comm meeting. I finally took the Cal History and Traditions decal and dyed the ends of my hair blue. We made Celia’s our Tuesday spot. I went to away football games in Oregon and Washington with Rally Comm, went to both Coachella and Stagecoach and Outside Lands with my sorority sisters, and went skiing and to Cancun with my housemates. I can confidently say I studied in 23 of the 24 on campus libraries (I never made it to the Optometry Library. I guess that’s why I wear glasses.) I went to a cappella concerts, birthday parties, night rallies, coffee shops. I started my one second a day again to capture it all. It was truly this is me trying to soak up every last bit of Berkeley that I could. And I’m happy with what I did and the stories that I will tell about the last great american dynasty

Kara at the Campanile in graduation regalia.
A beautiful goodbye.

Looking back, everything does seem to be connected by an invisible string. From the too-big Cal sweatshirt I wore on a San Diego trip at age 10 where someone yelled “Go Bears” to my confused face, to wearing that same sweatshirt on a cloudy Decision Day, all the way to packing that sweatshirt into an IKEA bag to move out of the apartment I shared with five of my best friends during a senior year filled with incredible memories. 

While it’s time to go and say goodbye to Berkeley’s green hills and chiming bells, I know that this place will always be home. It’s a place of wonder and welcome that ended up being beyond any of my wildest dreams. I’m fearless, act with love, and choose to speak now. I’m forever grateful for the opportunities I was given here and the long walks through John Galen Howard’s masterpieces as I listen to Taylor’s songs. It was a love story that will be remembered for evermore. 

Long Live the Class of 2022!

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.