Spring break is a state of mind

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Spring break, or how back in Hong Kong we would divide our terms (read: semester), was named as literally as possible. Thus, “Half Term Break” was born to signify a large sigh of relief for me and my fellow peers back in Hong Kong. That sign of relief, I find, is quite universally exhaled by all.

I was quite excited to see what a U.S. half term would lead me to — it was another one of those respites that I couldn’t see my family. It’s weird, having these allotted times in a traditional school year to go and recharge and see old friends and family — something not so neatly afforded to me, as home was a 14-hour flight away. Deciding to go fly off to Los Angeles mere hours before the flight was set to take off is not something my overthinker brain relishes.

But I think the adrenaline, the novelty and the nuanced ring of “I’m going to LA for spring break” may have also spurred this surge of spontaneity in me. I barely let myself think it over, and the next thing I knew I was rushing back to my dorm to quickly scramble and get packed. It felt everso college and even more “spring break.”

Nonetheless, I was excited. I wanted to get out and explore the Southern California I’ve heard so much of. It would be different from my family’s clockwork appearances in Phuket, Thailand. Soaking up the sun, copious amounts of pad thai consumed and sand encrusted into the spine of whatever book I had brought would be missed. This trip has already been missed and mourned, but with the travel restrictions put into place two years ago, the bite of not going to my home away from home stung a little less.

But that old sting has returned in quite a fashion since this spring break. Now I wasn’t expecting a frame-by-frame reenactment of the titular film “Spring Breakers,” but I can tell you that it was pretty similar.

A last-minute ticket booked, Spirit Airlines, a 4 a.m. wakeup time and Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” blasting among shared AirPods was how we started our spring break. Let me be the first to tell — I can now understand the Southern California versus Northern California discourse.

I think back to just getting off work and strolling down to my friend’s apartment, wanting to see them one last time before they left for spring break to LA. Little did I know that all the convincing that I needed to come with them to LA was a few puppy-dog eyes and a reminder that it was dear Keala’s birthday the day after tomorrow. So, I caved.

Like my friend Aaliyah says, “spring break is a state of mind,” and what is more spring break than agreeing to get on a plane and fly off to LA in literally a couple of hours? And, to be perfectly honest, I had missed traveling and needed some good old socializing without the pretense of studying. On the plus side, the Palisade sun would no doubt be good for my near-translucent-looking skin.

Tucked away in a quaint Airbnb at the top of the pacific palisades was where I spent my spring break. It was everything that I had missed of Phuket — the laid-back atmosphere of Santa Monica, the incessant sun and warmth. I had not expected the chill that encompasses Berkeley; my U.S. geography is almost as poor as my memory of growing up here.

I don’t think I had even realized the break that I needed until I was there. It was weird seeing how much more life I granted myself while being on spring break. The only thing that I had to stress about was whether or not I wanted an iced coffee or matcha that day. It was simple, easy and effortlessly “spring break.”

I want to say that a lot of my inhibitions went away during those few days. I was taking everything as it came — no stress, no deadlines and no pressure. Everything seemed to go as planned on that trip. It seemed like every time we were at a stoplight, the light was green. Every day was beautiful and sunny. It made me realize that once I’m back in Berkeley, I have the resolve to treat the rest of the semester in a spring break mindset. And that was that.

Driving down the coast with the windows down, music reverberating and eyes fixated on the stunning scenery was something that I thought only occurred in the movies. I had forgotten my love of the beach, of being enveloped in the sweltering heat, the smell of salt water in my hair.

While not the relaxing or enriching half term my family would have, this spring break left a lasting impact on me. It forced me to realize that there is much to still know and explore about this place, my time here and the person I’ll become through it. That the country that I hail from and live in is not as one-note as I previously attributed it to.

For that fact, I’m happy to have done such a spontaneous thing to live ever so college-esque. This trip has let me in on a little secret; to say “yes” and take a chance, even if you’re unsure of how things will turn out.

Spring break is a state of mind.

Rachel Chipner writes the Monday column on being an international college student trying to reidentify with her American heritage. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.