Four years ago, on my brother’s graduation day, my family soaked up the sun on Memorial Glade while enjoying falafel wraps from Bongo Burger — a beautiful Berkeley combination. My mom insisted that I take photos of my brother in his cap and gown, and as he grumbled, the two of us entered Doe Library.
We walked up the white marble steps next to the gold handrail, which beamed in the day’s exceptionalism. We turned into the reading room whose intricately engraved ceiling was far higher than I could have imagined and whose tall windows filled the room with sunlight, leaving it naturally lit. There, my brother turned to reluctantly pose and smile for a few clicks.
For the past four years, perhaps ever since my brother’s graduation day, Doe Library has been my favorite building, despite a year passing since I last actually set foot in Doe and other Berkeley places I have come to love.
Sometimes I feel like we’ll just pick up from the spring of junior year, the point in my life at which the pandemic began, and I’ll have another year to spend in packed lecture halls, in club meetings and cafes on campus and in Doe Library. But the year for that has now come to an end, and with its ending, I feel a deep longing and simultaneous gratitude for the nearly three years I had in those UC Berkeley buildings, the four years I’ve spent in the city and the communities that have been formed in these spaces.
Over the past few weeks, people have asked whether it’s the people or the places that I’ll miss when I say I’m sad to leave Berkeley. The question, however, is impossible to answer. The two continue to feel so intertwined, even after 15 months of living in the pandemic.
Although I will certainly miss the people who have become friends, confidants, housemates, mentors and trusted classmates, I will miss the physical place of Berkeley — it made those connections flourish and built the sense of community that I feel today.
My first home here in Berkeley was 115A. More specifically, 115A of Christian Hall of Unit 1. In that concrete-walled room, I made my first friend at college.
The dark-carpeted hallway of that same building brought another stranger into my world. Years later, we decided that we will be neighbors when we get older and picked out the orange-and-red-hued houses on Russell Street as our future homes.
In a packed Wheeler 150, I took chemistry and economics exams, sharing the relief of finishing a grueling two-hour-long exam with hundreds of people I didn’t know. In a cramped Dwinelle classroom, I made a friend while discussing our R1B readings in a small class.
On days when I found a seat in Moffitt, classmates and I worked through old midterms and problem sets. At Yogurt Park, I celebrated the end of semesters and treat-yourself Fridays.
In my first apartment, my friend since fifth grade became my apartment-mate and personal hair braider.
I felt inspired in the little, somewhat messy storefront on Bancroft Way that is the Berkeley Student Food Collective, a space built and supported by people who care deeply about our community.
Outside the Free Speech Movement Cafe during dead week, I huddled with friends and friends of friends around the giant rectangular slabs of cold concrete that serve as tables, positioned just slightly too far from the chairs.
As Memorial Stadium bustled with excitement and energy, I cheered — but often grimaced — from my spot in a sea of students at football games.
In a cozy house near Telegraph Avenue, my housemates and I played games, had bonfires, studied, slept and worked all while sharing a single, small space.
And of course, The Daily Californian’s office has been a home of its own. Eight semesters later, the Daily Cal has been one of the few constants in this journey of college. It connected me to the Berkeley community, allowed me the opportunity to tell stories through writing and introduced me to some of the most passionate, funny and kind people. But I know my experience at the Daily Cal would have been far different without laughing and grumbling with others in the chaotic environment of the office and the courtyard, home to the sports department’s consistent Friday meetings at 4 p.m.
My Berkeley experience as a whole would have looked drastically different had I not shared spaces with friends and strangers alike. In doing anything together, regardless of whether we knew each other or whether we would stay friends, we built a sense of connection in being together.
For the past year, I have walked around the UC Berkeley campus with the same nostalgia that I assume alumni feel when they return to campus years after they graduate. For the class of 2021, our last days inside those UC Berkeley buildings concluded more than a year before our official departure. We left without knowing we would not be back.
Now, our departure has at last become formal and final. Our days on campus are officially over, but as we leave, the memories attached to Berkeley buildings and spaces can move with us.
Before I graduate, I will not be able to return inside the library that instilled a sense of awe four years ago on my brother’s graduation day. But I can still picture Doe vividly, and for that, I am forever grateful.
Surina Khurana was the “Outside the Lines” columnist in spring 2021. She joined The Daily Californian in fall 2017 as the volleyball beat reporter and was a men’s tennis and beach volleyball beat reporter in spring 2018, volleyball beat reporter in fall 2018, men’s basketball beat reporter in winter 2019-20 and volleyball beat reporter in fall 2020. She was the “Changing the Game” columnist in spring 2020 and served as a deputy sports editor in fall 2020. She is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in public health and economics.