The other day, I was busy doing my assignments and preparing for Dead Week, then suddenly realized, I’ll have to leave Berkeley soon. Only three weeks. I can’t believe my time in Berkeley is about to end. To an exchange student, this is the hardest part of exchange, the part when you have to leave behind the memories you’ve built over the past six months. Many people ask me whether I’ll come back to Berkeley and no, I won’t be able to come back. I’m a Junior at my home university, and the time to face reality is approaching, the time to prepare for my life after university. But even when I’m back in Seoul, back to reality, I won’t forget this amazing semester. Reminiscing on the past six months, here is a list of what I would miss the most after I leave Berkeley.
Many students choose their host university based on its location. San Francisco is one of the most popular cities to people outside of the United States, everyone knows the red, symbolic Golden Gate Bridge. Berkeley is definitely the best location within the Bay Area, with its close proximity to San Fransico. I fell in love with San Francisco as soon as I got there. Every weekend trip to San Francisco was just perfect. The great charm of San Francisco is in its peace and calmness. Compared to busy, crowded and bustling Seoul, the people in this city take their time, have picnics under the California sun, eat brunch on terraces, drink morning coffee and swim or sail in the sea. San Fransico also has an eclectic and eccentric vibe which makes every trip new and entertaining. I loved having picnics in Mission Dolores Park with pastries from Tartine Bakery, drinking lattes in The Mill, spending days exploring SF MoMA, eating dim sum in Chinatown and drawing the Painted Ladies under the sun in Alamo Square. I still have so many places that I haven’t visited: Ocean Beach, De Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, Twin Peaks and countless cafes and restaurants! I love Seoul too, but I will definitely miss my days in San Francisco.
I was satisfied with my community back at my home university. I met my best friends in college, which is not easy, and I was very upset about not seeing them for six months. But as soon as I got used to the crazy academic schedule of Berkeley, I withdrew from my homesickness. Then, I found friends here, whom I first met at Golden Bear Orientation. We spent all three days of GBO together but at first, I didn’t expect our relationship to deepen to this level. We ate together in the dining hall, had picnics on the glade, studied together in the study lounge, went out for dinner in Downtown Berkeley and even went to San Francisco together on my birthday. They were always with me during this six-month journey in Berkeley. We’re all from different backgrounds and nationalities, but still became best friends and supported each other during this tough semester. I don’t want to think about our last day together. Hopefully, one day in the future, when we are all settled down somewhere, we will meet together somewhere in this world.
I still can’t forget the first day of the semester. Before that day, I didn’t have a chance to explore the campus in depth, except for the campus tour during GBO. I remember I first went to Golden Bear Cafe and found out I can eat a decent breakfast there with a meal plan. I ate an egg croissant on the terrace under the warm sun and pleasant wind. Then, I bumped into Morrison Library on my way. I was amazed, “What on Earth? It’s a Harry Potter Library!” With my heart pounding from excitement, I entered the Doe Library, amazed again. I sent one message to my mom, “Mom, I want to stay here longer.” Compared to my home university, which is also popular for having an awesome campus, Berkeley’s campus is marvelous. I love how students just lie down on the glade even without picnic blankets between their classes. I loved how the Campanile rings its bell every hour. I love the outdoor swimming pools and tennis courts and how students take care of their well-being. These are the three components I will miss the most: the sun, the glade and the peace.
Freedom as an exchange student
This semester, I was relieved from all the academic stresses for the first time after I came to college. Exchange students have relatively less stress compared to students in their host university. Of course, I struggled at the beginning of the semester, facing all those small assignments and discussions. Then, I realized, “Hey, you’re an exchange student. Just relax.” I never submitted an assignment late back at my home university, that was just unacceptable for me. I submitted assignments on time, even while sacrificing meal times and sleep. Well, in Berkeley, I submitted several assignments late. I experienced more freedom from the pressure of academic achievement this semester.
For the rest of the three weeks, I’ll spend more time with my friends, go swimming, finish all my classes strong and take a nap in the glade. The time I spent here, the six months, was the most magical time of my life.