My roommate walks in the door and holds up a bag of takeout food before removing her mask. We grab forks and sit down in front of her laptop, Chinese food balanced on our laps as we log on to a virtual club meeting to talk with our friends. This scene has happened every Wednesday since the beginning of the shelter-in-place, it’s our weekly ritual to give ourselves a break from dishes and support the small Chinese restaurant down the block, King Dong. We have had many memories with our friends there, since it is the closest restaurant to our apartment, reasonably-priced, and the taste never disappoints. When this crisis started, we decided to eat there once a week to give them even a small bit of business in these trying times. We also decided to support local businesses as much as we can, because the city of Berkeley is packed full of amazing small businesses and we want to continue to enjoy them after this is over.
Today I woke up to an email from my mom with an attached video and the simple caption: “3 years ago today.” I opened it to see the two minute long video of me sitting in my living room opening up my Berkeley decision. The first minute and a half is mostly just me telling my dad I didn’t get in while my dad stares at my computer screen and I try to remember my password to the online portal. In the middle there was about 30 seconds where the website crashed. Or maybe it was our WiFi. The video ends with a small scream as I finally see the confetti floating down the screen and I realize I had just been offered admission.
Coming to UC Berkeley, I heard a lot about the big classes I would be taking. I heard about 500 person lecture halls and about the 25 person discussions that would go along with them. What I didn’t hear as much about would be the classes under 15 people that would be just as big of a part of my time at Berkeley. As a German minor, I have never taken a German class with more than 12 people. Even when the classes were taught in English, the classes still stayed smaller than I ever imagined a college class would be. Last semester I took two courses that I want to talk about in depth to show examples of what a small class at UC Berkeley can be like.
This year, I have the honor of being in charge of the Cal flags as a Director of Athletics in the UC Rally Committee. You might have seen them around campus either at a game, a rally, or performing with band at various other spirit events. When I got this position, I really didn’t know it was going to entail. I knew it would be a lot of time at sporting events. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the flags this much.
I remember the moment during my first game this year when the Cal Band played a Cal song and I saw the the Cal flags lifted into the air, waving simultaneously from all corners of the stadium. Then a flag waver ran down the end zone with the bear flag flying above to celebrate that we had scored. It was an amazing feeling to see everything I had worked on come to fruition in that moment.
This summer, I had a friend ask me if I wanted to go to a concert at the Greek Theater. The concert started in three hours and I didn’t listen to the bands playing very often but I had never been to a concert, so I said yes. Two weeks later, my roommate’s friend’s car broke down and I had 30 minutes to decide whether or not to buy her ticket to the concert at the Greek that night. I bought her ticket and, 30 minutes later, texted my dad a picture of one of our favorite artists singing right in front of me. His response made me think a lot about life.
At the beginning of this academic year, my sophomore year, I decided to join the UC Rally Committee, a group of students I had seen on campus wearing bumblebee-colored rugby-style shirts and passing out flyers about upcoming rallies and games. I had very little idea of what I was getting myself into, and yet it was the best decision I have made in college so far. Here’s a little bit about why.
I decided to join because I wanted a friend group to go to the football games with and that’s all I expected to get out of it. I had a friend who had joined freshman year and I had watched from afar as she had a ton of fun her entire freshman year and I decided I wanted in on that fun. Why did I decide to join now, you may ask; why not second semester freshman year? Why not as soon as I saw her having fun? The answer is simple: freshman year I had a group of friends in the dorms and I didn’t feel I needed other friends. We ate meals together in the dining halls and left our doors open so we could hang out every night of the week. I was certain that we would never stop being friends. Until summer came and there were no more chats in the group chat and I realized my unbreakable friend group had only been friends by proximity. Don’t get me wrong, I have no regrets about becoming close with those people. I just wish I had joined more clubs to be more involved in the school to have other social circles in addition to them. So, I joined RallyComm because they had free football tickets, my friend had fun in it, and I wouldn’t be standing alone at the games.
It’s a Friday during midterm season and although I have an essay due next week and four readings, I am sitting on Memorial Glade in front of Doe Library surrounded with my friends and I have no regrets. My books are open in front of me so that I can do my work, but that’s not what I am focusing on. I sometimes get the question “How do you have the time to hang out on the glade with friends?” and the answer is: We all have hard classes, when you ask your friends if they want to take a break on the glade, chances are they will be more than willing to hang out for a few hours.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about ideas of what to do if you found yourself on campus for spring break without anything to do. But I did not write about another option for some students: staying on campus for a specific program that you chose to do for educational or professional reasons. In my case, me and 14 other students stayed on campus this spring break, spending most of it in a mostly empty building on our mostly empty campus, to attend a program called Democracy Camp. Democracy Camp was a program designed to help students start careers in public service where we got to meet people in various careers, have networking opportunities, and learn about how to start a career in these fields.
#1: San Francisco
Only a bus or BART ride away, San Francisco is filled with tourist locations such as Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz Island, and of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. If you want something a little bit more outdoorsy, there’s always Baker Beach looking at the Golden Gate Bridge, the bison paddock in Golden Gate Park, and many other beaches, parks, and trails.
#2: Berkeley Marina
Berkeley’s own marina is closer than San Francisco, but the paths along the shore still have views of the water, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the sunsets. Simply hop on the 51B bus next to the MLK Student Union Building and it will take you directly there.
#3: Big C
I know, I know, almost every student has already hiked up to the Big C on the hills next to campus. But how many times have you been the only person up there? This week you can have the place to yourself as you look across campus, the city of Berkeley, the Bay, and the skyline of San Francisco. Although both sunrises and sunsets are amazing from up there, walking down in the dark alone is not advised, so this is great if you happen to wake up early one morning and want to see the famous sunset from the Big C.
#4: Try new food places
If you’re like me and most of my friends, you eat most of your meals at cheap, quick restaurants within about three blocks of campus and you probably only rotate between around four different places that you know are good. Well, this week, with no classes to worry about being late for, why don’t you branch out and try somewhere new? Maybe try that restaurant in Oakland your friend has been telling you about for months. Or just walk a few blocks further down Telegraph Ave. and see what looks good. You never know, you might find your new favorite place to eat.
#5: Relaxing on the Glade
Although there’s always plenty of time to study on Memorial Glade, spring break is a great time to take a break and sunbathe on the glade instead. Even though libraries on campus are closed, the Berkeley Public Library is still open and only two blocks away from the western border of campus, so this week is a great time to read a book for fun instead of for a class while laying on the glade, looking at the Campanile, and enjoying the fact that for this week you get the campus to yourself.
I know it can seem lonely to be here when everyone else is gone, but I’m excited for my week exploring the area around campus that I wish I explored more often during the rest of the year. I hope my ideas help you better enjoy this unique week of alone time in our typically-bustling campus!