Coming to appreciate unexpected Berkeley spots

I was wide-eyed and elated as I walked around campus with a tour group on my first Cal Day. On that day, the UC Berkeley campus became more than just pictures I had admired on my laptop screen. From Sather Gate to the Campanile, I marveled at the campus that became a reality right in front of me. As a prospective student back then, I had little to no idea of what the campus would eventually mean to me and which unexpected places on campus would become my most cherished.

Many would expect places such as the top of the Campanile, Memorial Glade, or the stands of the Cal Memorial Stadium to become the most meaningful places for Cal students. After all, those are a few of the famous landmarks that make up the UC Berkeley campus. During my own current freshman year at Cal, however, an unexpected place has become the most meaningful to me. To me, this place is even more important than the typical locations that are recognizable to many. The campus is a vast, unique, historic and beautiful place. Any student that comes to Cal is bound to find the place on campus that speaks to them.

The place I cherish the most is my dorm’s laundry room. This location may seem insignificant and unremarkable, or may seem like an absurd choice of mine. But for me, I feel that there is no place on campus quite like this. As a resident of the eighth floor in Ehrman Hall, our floor lacks a study room and instead has a much smaller laundry room. On move-in day last August, I was initially displeased with it and jealous of the floor below that had a study room decorated with couches, tables for studying, and a balcony facing the Unit 2 courtyard. I was sure that I had gotten the short end of the stick with my housing situation.

But as the weeks went by, I eventually began to see my laundry room’s charm. From the eighth floor, there was a breathtaking view of Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay in the distance. The laundry room not only became the ideal place for my roommates and I to take in the colorful Berkeley sunset everyday before dinner — sunsets which to this day, are the predominant photo that fills up our phone camera albums — but it also became an essential place to bring visitors and friends from outside the hall. Residents of the eighth floor now take pride in the view from the laundry room.

I can still remember a time when I was doing my laundry and a group of people suddenly burst into the laundry room. Usually familiar with people on my floor and in my building, I was surprised when I failed to recognize any of them. They beelined past me to the window and fought to stand in front of one another. While they snapped photos on their phones and exchanged exclamations of awe, I decided to ask them if they were from my building. One of them turned back to look at me and smiled, “We came all the way from Unit 1. We just wanted to see the sunset”.

I nodded and couldn’t hide my giddy smile. It was then that I realized that there was no better view than the one from our laundry room. To this day, my floormates and I like to think that the view from the laundry room even puts the view from the Campanile to shame.

The laundry room is also never frequented as much as study rooms are, and because of this, it has become an almost tranquil place that I can go to when I need to pause life. Whenever I feel stressed, upset, or down which are feelings that any college student is familiar with the laundry room is always the first place I go to. With the room often empty and the only noise being the gentle hum of the laundry machines, standing there in front of the window eases whatever worries or anxieties I had in my head and would allow me to take a breather. As odd as it sounds, there is almost something therapeutic about being there.

The laundry room is also an unlikely place that brings people on the floor together. Many of the friendships I have with people in my dorm actually began in that very room. Even now, when other people happen to be there when I drop by, I never fail to strike up a conversation with them. Whether the conversations be quick check-ups on how each other’s days are going, long conversations about life and current struggles, or simply sharing complaints about the broken elevator in the building and how we have to use the stairs — these conversations are always refreshing and helpful in getting closer to the people on my floor. Some of my favorite memories at Cal so far are the late night conversations that I have had with friends while staring at the glittering San Francisco city lights from the laundry room. These conversations sometimes last for hours (and technically take time away from what we should be doing), but they also keep us fair-minded and happy.

In my eyes, the laundry room is a place you can congregate with friends, have conversations of different sorts, have alone time or simply enjoy a view of the city. While it may not be the first location many people would choose, all the different things I talked about are why it’s so meaningful to me. I know that I unfortunately can’t be an eighth floor resident forever and that I will eventually have to part with the laundry room. But, I am sure I will find other places on campus that will become meaningful to me throughout the next three years.

And that goes for everyone. I am sure that anyone who comes to Cal will find places that will speak to them.

Contact Annika Constantino at [email protected] .