The night I (freshman, 2019, winded by stairs) moved into Foothill, I didn’t make it to the dining hall in time. Two other girls and I ended up cobbling dinner out of leftover snacks. The three of us plunked ourselves on the ground, split green tea muffins, coconut buns and popcorn, and I thought, “Wow. Now this is a real college experience.”
It wasn’t just because we had to scrounge up our own solution, or because that dinner would’ve spooked doctors and parents alike, or because of our thrilling adventure to a corner store, where we decided Hot Pockets weren’t worth the five dollars. No — it was because we were in it together.
At risk of sounding like a college brochure, my favorite memories at UC Berkeley all revolve around togetherness. Like this next one from my introductory materials science class, where a group of us freshmen took up an entire row of the lecture hall, always halfway up the room. On the last day of lecture, we decided to switch things up and pack into the first row instead, to our professor’s bemusement. For no damn reason, this was cause for glee; the conspiracy of it and the camaraderie.
Of course, the pandemic ate up a subsequent year and a half of UC Berkeley for me. If you’d cornered me at Golden Bear Orientation and said, “In a year and eight months, you’re going to be in line at Levi’s Stadium for a vaccine, and when the security guy asks if you have any electronics on you, you’ll start tearing up at this, the first sentence you’ve exchanged in person outside your family since March 2020,” — well, frankly, I’d have replied, “You’ve lost your mind.”
Here’s what the pandemic showed me, though: Without community, without routine and without an outside world apart from horrific news notifications, I do, in fact, lose my mind. I come unglued.
But I’ve made it through four years at UC Berkeley, even through the worst depression of my life, even through the inane repetition of “uncertain times” and “unprecedented times” in every email and, far more mundanely, even through problem sets and papers. A lot of that is because of the people around me; too many names to all fit here.
Thank you, genuinely, to the Daily Cal, with a special shoutout to everyone I worked with in our remote era of production. Thank you to my design department deputies and co-deputies and the editors who’ve guided me, for giving me structure, for teaching me leadership and — when worst came to worst — for straining so far and so hard to churn out a newspaper despite the distance, even if our laptops suffered having InDesign and Zoom open at the same time. If we’d been in person some final Friday in spring 2021, you’d have seen me well up at everyone’s farewell messages on Slack, and at the last little notification that told me you have been removed from the private channel “designeditors.”
Thank you Shiangyi and Anjali, my roommates for two years and my friends for four — and hopefully for many more. Here’s to christening each semester by frying food, and to never making decisions, but frequently making boba runs. You two are some of the hardest workers and most dedicated people I know, even if you keep shrugging it off every time I say it.
To Anne: From our first semester’s bad materials science pickup lines to whatever number of pinned messages we have in our texts now, you have always been thoughtful, compassionate and, also, hilarious. I admire your resilience and your adventurousness — I’ve tackled so many things I never would have felt brave enough to do alone because of you.
And to my parents, who are my best friends and my mind-readers, even if the latter is to my occasional annoyance: Thank you for always trying to understand me even when I don’t understand myself.
I am a very different person from freshman me. I am a natural continuation of freshman me. I am because of you.
I’m finishing off undergrad, but I’ll be sticking around at UC Berkeley a little longer. Even so, the context around me is changing. Many of the communities I’ve been part of, the groups I’ve moved in and the friends I’ve made are moving forward. For the people leaving, I have one last story for you before you go.
At the end of my first dead week, I did make it to Foothill dining after all, along with a bunch of people I’d come to know over the past several months. We cracked jokes about whether math actually exists without being written down. We ranked STEM majors by the edibility of their subject matter (spoiler: computer science ranked below chemistry). We were very likely high on the sugar from the dining hall’s cheesecake balls.
As we wrapped up, gathering plates and shrugging on backpacks and laughing, a thought flickered through my head. My friend beat me to saying it then. But I’ll repeat her words now:
I liked this a lot. I’m really glad you decided to come to Berkeley.
Aishwarya Jayadeep was the fall 2020 design editor. She served as head of illustrations and infographics in summer 2020 and spring 2021, and worked as an editorial illustrator in fall 2021. She joined The Daily Californian in fall 2019 as a layout designer, graphic artist and illustrator. She is graduating with bachelor’s degrees in materials science and engineering and linguistics.