If in recent weeks someone muttered to you “Everyone goes to USC (University of Southern California) for the game to party,” you are far from alone. Naturally, I felt an abstract form of peer pressure to be one of those UC Berkeley students, committing to the trip for the promise of a rewarding weekend to remember. Lucky enough for me, this was utterly plausible as it already coincided with previous plans I had made to visit USC to see two of my best friends.
Considering my innate talent for always being ultra-prepared, I only needed three hours of sleep and an Enlightenment Yerba Mate to catch a 4 a.m. flight to LAX. Essentially, I was solely running on some caffeine and excitement for a romanticized reunion.
When my Uber pulled up to the brink of campus, I got out and took my first steps on USC territory, only to be immediately bombarded by the hugs of two of my closest friends. Their comforting embrace left me with no desire to let go, my body and mind felt at ease in the relief of being surrounded by people that reminded me of home.
We proceeded to tour the campus and eat in the dining hall because my friend was adamant about using her meal swipes. Their dining hall — and this may be a hot take – is better than ours. I was, of course, wearing my green Berkeley peace sweatshirt, which warranted some glares and prompted one person to call out “Fight on!” to me as I strolled idly by. However, all attention is good attention when in Los Angeles, right?
By the time the clock hit 1 p.m., my friends and I were mentally crashing, poking fun at how surreal the day felt, almost as if we were all disassociated from reality. Who would have ever thought the plans we made last spring break to visit each other in college would make it out of the group chat? As we lounged around in my friend’s living room, I couldn’t help but feel like something magical was happening — despite the elapse in time and change of environment, everything seemed to fall perfectly back into place. There was no awkward warm-up conversation or painful small talk of “How are you doing?”. It was as though the past few months had flown by and spilled out of the deepest parts of our cerebral cortexes, only to fall into each other’s laps for commentary and support.
Yet after our hefty conversations — which were understandably a lot to unpack — we got ready to tailgate in the main quad. The fact that they tailgated on the main part of campus came as an astounding shock to me, but hey, to each their own. Nonetheless, I wore my Berkeley top with pride, which proved to be the best conversation starter for someone who had felt socially deprived in the past few weeks.
But perhaps I was feeling a little too bold in my Berkeley top. Without any second thought, I struck up random conversations with a little too much ease. Before I knew it, I was putting my Instagram into people’s phones, catching up with someone from high school whom I had never even talked to before and taking endless BeReal pictures with people I will never encounter again. I dabbed up people passing by who seemed friendly, and my friends were in awe of the new personalities I acquired with each interaction. As an introverted extrovert, it was almost as though I were test-running new social personalities to develop when I would return to Berkeley.
Besides those silly little encounters, I felt re-energized and rejuvenated by the few moments shared with my hometown friends. As someone who hates saying goodbye, the day spent in Los Angeles was just what I needed to carry me through the home stretch back in Berkeley. As my friends like to say, when in Los Angeles, it’s more than justifiable to have a little fun and spend a lot of money. But in all seriousness, home is found in the souls of your people, which is sometimes more than anything you could ask for.