The unbearable lightness of reminiscing

Cal in Color

Photo of Marina Román Cantú

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There are only a couple of weeks left in the semester and conversations between me and my friends have shifted to the past tense; “should’ves” have crept into and overflowed our dialogues. 

From the smallest things — like one of my friends saying he should’ve never bought tide pods at the beginning of the semester because they somehow ended up leaving traces of blue detergent into all of his clothes — to the weekends we regret the most because we should’ve stayed out later than we did.  

As study abroad students, we try to make the most out of the fixed number of weekends we have here at UC Berkeley. We make plans for cheap road trips in California and its neighboring states. We spend our Saturdays and Sundays in San Francisco and attempt to become experts in all the cool spots Berkeley has to offer. 

You know we’ve reached the finish line of our five-month stay once we’re no longer making plans ahead. In the midst of the worst part of the semester, the only flight we’re planning to buy is the one that will bring us back home. This simple task has been postponed for weeks as no one wants to be the first to leave once the 60-day grace period that our F1 visas grant us starts. 

It’s an implicit rule among us to not talk about how little remaining time we have here. The same rule I’m breaking as I’m writing this. 

When choosing UC Berkeley for my study abroad program, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew it was a great school for the field I wanted to delve into, but I only had minor references about the university based on some movies and the fact that one of my favorite writers was an undergrad here. 

The only knowledge I had about life at Berkeley was from generic advice given to me by people in my internship back home: to search and sign a housing lease as soon as I got my student visa (months ahead of the start of the semester), to choose someone I knew well enough to be my roommate and to make the most out of Berkeley’s acclaimed economics program. 

Quite the opposite occurred. Back in January, I barely knew my roommate apart from a few encounters we’d shared during high school. Due to the distance (and several amateur mistakes on our part), we signed our lease contract the Sunday just before classes started. Additionally, I chose not to take any economics classes — mainly because econometrics and I are taking a long-due break — and enrolled in purely women and gender studies classes.

The days of choosing housing accommodations seem distant. We’re now measuring our time left here by counting down how many Taco Tuesdays we have yet to attend. 

Last week, during Mexico’s Easter break, some of my friends from home came to spend the week with me and helped me pack some of the stuff I’ve accumulated over the last few months. I couldn’t possibly pack on my own in May, which consisted mostly of coffee-brewing accessories and books. 

As we were walking by Bancroft Way, one of my friends told me that Berkeley, as a city, should be the blueprint for many other towns. I think it is true. I see Berkeley as a bubble, a good one, filled with acceptance. It’s definitely one of the United States’ most liberal environments.

Sometimes, I don’t appreciate things until I’m able to see them through other people’s gazes for the first time. Last week, through my best friends’ eyes, I could start to think in retrospect about the things in Berkeley that I’ve come to appreciate and am now deeply grateful for. 

For starters, the biggest change of them all is that I’ve become used to living a slower-paced life, relative to the one I live back home. Here, my daily plans involve impromptu hikes and outings that revolve around sunset time. I’ve come to the conclusion that California’s skies around sunset are filled with one of the most beautiful color palettes I’ve ever seen. I’ve also realized that I love walkable cities and that I’ve enjoyed not stepping into a car so much that I now get severely carsick every time I’m in the back seat of a car. 

I now love Berkeley’s slightly cooler weather and how it allows me to sit down on the Glade and soak up the sun on Sundays. I’ve become used to the eccentricities of the city, Berkeley’s weird and superstitious traditions and its vast number of thrift shops and bookstores. 

All things regarding Berkeley came to me as a surprise and as amazing as everything has been, the most rewarding revelation of all was the people that I got to meet here. I have never been surrounded by people I’ve become friends with in such a spontaneous and immediate matter. It only took a couple of weeks for these people to make this stubborn and self-reliant only child experience a serious case of separation anxiety. 

Thank you for living through the craziness of these past months by my side. It’s only my duty to inform you that you’re now stuck with me.

Marina Román Cantú writes the Friday column on being a person of color at UC Berkeley. Contact the opinion desk at opinio[email protected], or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.