Like so many UC Berkeley students in off-campus relationships, my boyfriend attends UC Davis while I go to UC Berkeley. This “short” distance means that three day weekends are basically music to my ears, so on Friday, I hopped on the oh-so-convenient bus between the UC Davis and UC Berkeley campuses and let the hubbub of the city fade away as I headed to Cow Town, California.
The first thing that one notices about the Davis campus is how huge it is. It’s no wonder that practically every student owns a bike — walking from class to class in 10 minutes is impractical, if not impossible. While the flat ground is a nice change from the rolling hills of Berkeley, it only took me 15 minutes of walking from one side of the campus to miss my familiar shortcuts through Berkeley’s campus. The campus itself has a somewhat famous double-decker bus system just to get students from one end to the other. Sure, we have Bear Transit, but it’s not super necessary. If you don’t have a bike, the buses are a must-use.
The second thing one notices is the bike culture itself. Bikes are everywhere, something that is equally terrifying for a pedestrian as for a biker new to the area, both of which I was. Looking for a spot to lock up my bike midday could be a five-minute venture, and don’t even get me started on the bike circles — they’re more intimidating than real-world car roundabouts. That being said, the bike culture helps to create an aura of relaxation for the whole campus itself. It looks almost like something out of a movie, with groups of people leisurely biking together and chatting, people somehow managing to drink coffee and bike at the same time and every type of biking attire you could imagine (even business casual).
The feel of the campus is incredibly different from the hectic pace to which Berkeley students are accustomed. Maybe it’s the bikers, the people lounging about in hammocks or the lack of a Sproul Plaza, but the Davis campus instantly feels more laid back than the constant sensory overload of being on Berkeley’s campus with the noise of the city. At the beginning of this year, a friend joked that you aren’t a real Berkeley student until you go visit Davis and regret your life choices. At first, this seemed to me to be true. It feels like the air about campus is almost lighter. While the students still have an incredible amount of work, somehow the environment just seems less competitive — something that can feel like a breath of fresh air after a particularly unforgiving midterm curve.
What do you do in Davis? Well, it turns out you go to parks. There’s an inordinately large amount of greenery in the area. On Saturday, we went to a farmer’s market in a park in downtown Davis. To my surprise, there was not one homeless person, nor did I catch a single whiff of weed. There were, however, families playing on the grass with their children, students studying and a face painting booth. On Sunday, we again found ourselves at a park in a completely different part of Davis.
On the 10-minute bike ride to this off-campus park, we went past at least three other parks. I think I saw more green grass in one day at Davis than a whole semester at Berkeley. It’s beautiful and incredibly relaxing, but after the fourth park of the weekend, I was ready to take a BART ride into the densely-populated city. The rural aspect of the area, which so contributes to the laid-back vibe of the campus, was beginning to drive me a little crazy. There just isn’t a huge amount to do if you have free time, especially if you’re on a college budget.
After three full days, the wide streets, spread-out campus and lack of any structure with more than five stories was getting old. Unlike my friend had joked, visiting Davis did not make me regret my choice of college (this time). It’s nice to know that there’s a beautiful, relaxing campus only an hour’s visit away, should I long for a little more greenery than Memorial Glade has to offer.
And all the cow stereotypes? Completely true.
Contact Taylor Follett at [email protected].