Although I was born and raised in the bay all my life, I didn’t get my first chance to visit the UC Berkeley campus until I was 16.
I was taking advanced psychology classes the summer before my senior year, and the only building I attended was Evans Hall, which was soon to be demolished. Before long, and even now, I considered it the epitome of college goth – easy to waste time, easy to lose, and visibly… striking. I also familiarized myself with the route that winds past the Valley Life Sciences Building to the BART in downtown Berkeley.
Coming to UC Berkeley for college hadn’t been on my radar, so my freshman year was spent admiring the scenic campus, walking to and from the lecture halls with a friend, and going to the Golden Bear Cafe. . My best-known buildings were Dwinelle and Wheeler Halls, although they were exhibited in other parts of campus in the spring; and during my second semester, I became obsessed with Yali’s Cafe in Stanley Hall.
During the summer, I took a class on campus and commuted every day. UC Berkeley felt like a ghost town, but I felt like I didn’t mind that – there was something about being able to explore the campus, unintimidated by a rush around the lecture halls or rushes to GBC, that made me attracted.
On what looked like the hottest day of the summer, I took the bus from North Gate to downtown Berkeley BART just to escape the sun. As we drove along the eastern edge of campus — past Soda and Cory halls, Foothill, the Greek Theater, Haas, Memorial Stadium, rounding the corner around International House — I felt a sudden penchant for my familiar and unknown friend.
In sophomore year, I had learned about my distaste for long hikes at Soda Hall, which put me off attending the 8 a.m. labs. I had a class inside the VLSB for the first time and had spent enough time at the Moffitt Library to determine that it was my favorite library. I made good memories there.
I thought I would have the rest of the year to keep doing it.
Halfway through the spring semester, we switched to distance learning and I moved back to my parents.
Stuck in my childhood bedroom for nearly 18 months, I looked longingly at my peers who had been able to return to campus for the fall semester. But, at the end of the semester, hope came: the class was very likely to return in person for the next school year – my senior year – and I was determined to return to campus.
I had not been completely isolated from campus during the distance learning period; once or twice I’d managed to convince my family to drive past campus, and once or twice I’d managed to persuade people to come visit campus and walk with me.
Still, returning to campus this fall had felt like seeing a high school friend after a year away from college—after moving past the initial disconnect, it felt like nothing had changed, but also like you’re slowly watching your friend turn into a stranger.
I was glad to be back; sitting in an actual conference room wasn’t as surreal as I had thought. There were times when, when I thought about it too much, my mind would crumble – we’d spent the last year and a half learning about Zoom, and now I was back at Dwinelle. After several days passed into weeks, then months, sand flowing through an hourglass, life on campus normalized – until the days began to roll by quickly.
Now, with about a month until I graduate from UC Berkeley, I think about the prospect of not walking around campus every day. At first, I know I will be relieved to return to my childhood bedroom, for a change of scenery, but eventually, that relief will turn into longing and then grieving for the experiences I will no longer have.
It won’t be a final farewell because I don’t intend to leave the Bay and my family for at least a few years.
The first few times I know that visiting campus will be a reopened wound; Just a few years ago, I was killing time in this library, sitting in a classroom in this building, or walking down Sproul Plaza with my friends.
Then, as time puts distance between me and my time at UC Berkeley, the good, the bad, and the ugly will tinge pink, until I remember it all with the same nostalgia. than for high school. I will return to campus and regard current students with affection, even if they rush to campus for midterms or walk slowly with friends, thinking back to when I was one of between them.
So when I leave campus in May, with no return scheduled for the fall, it won’t be a permanent goodbye – but it will always be a goodbye.
Contact Tarunika Kapoor at [email protected]