UCSB was not my first choice. I wanted to go to NYU, and fulfill my Felicity-inspired dreams of decking myself out in warm winter coats and making my Mary Tyler Moore way in the city that never sleeps. I wanted to snuggle in the snow, bask in the bright lights of Broadway, shop the streets of Soho, and chow down in Chinatown. I wanted to be Carrie Bradshaw, Ann Marie, Holly Golightly.
After I got that proverbial paper-thin envelope informing me that my application to NYU had been rejected, I settled on my second choice: UCLA. I could wander the winding ways of Westwood, sunbathe on the sand in Santa Monica, and be with my boyfriend at the time, who was finishing up his fourth year and well on his way to a fifth. UCLA would have been fine with me. Then, on the night of my high school talent show, I got the call from the aforementioned boy, who had been instructed to check the admissions announcements for me at the precise time that they were posted. I saw his name on my caller id, snuck out of the packed auditorium and received the rejection news.
And then there were five: UCSD, SDSU, UCSC, SFSU, and UCSB. I immediately eliminated the state schools, figuring that there was no reason to settle for a Cal State degree if I could get one bearing the UC seal.
I visited Santa Cruz, but wasn’t feeling the vibe, or the idea of spending four whole years trapped on top of a mountain. And, when I went to visit UC San Diego, the weather was terrible, the campus was bland, and the students looked like scary, Stepford versions of the vision I had in my head of how I wanted to spend college.
UCSB was my de facto decision. The weather was good, the people were nice, the tour guide seemed genuinely happy to be there. It was close enough to home to be comfortable, but far enough away to discourage unwanted visits from my parents. It was definitely my third choice, but it still seemed like it would be a tolerable enough place to spend four years.
Little did I know how wrong I was.
Looking back now, at the end of my college career, I can confidently say that my time at UCSB was not just tolerable. It was incredible.
I may not have gotten to live out my little girl in the big city dreams, or follow my boyfriend to the big buildings of UCLA, but UCSB afforded me the opportunity to do lots of things that I never even dreamed of doing during my halcyon high school days.
I fell in love and out of love, and in love again. I developed an amazing group of friends, and an incredible roster of experiences working at The Daily Nexus and The Santa Barbara Independent. I discovered a passion for cooking, and more ways to make instant noodles than I ever dreamed possible. I learned that the little girl who used to make up imaginary injuries to get out of P.E. could not only do daily runs, but learn to love the gym too. I found my calling in the creaky seats of Buchanan Hall, watching weary projectors displaying decades-old films from around the world. I sang karaoke at Old Town Tavern. I learned how to play pool at Dublin’s – not well, but well enough after a pitcher or two. I bowled over my friends with my total lack of lane skills at Zodo’s.
I doubled my money in Vegas. I did Relay For Life. I revived a childhood love of swimming, and had squirt gun wars with my friends on sweltering spring days. I honed my Scrabble skills. I learned to tell the difference between wine aged in steel and in oak, between a pint of Guinness and a glass of Grolsch. I interviewed Al Gore, talked to Sandra Bullock, heard David Cronenberg discuss his latest film, and Jeffrey Eugenides read passages from his latest work. I toured the Santa Ynez Valley, experienced the magic of seeing Wilco on a sultry summer night at the Santa Barbara Bowl, and played beer pong at the top of Storke Tower.
I barbecued in my backyard, on a grill we built from scratch and scrounged supplies. I fed ostriches and emus, and many, many friends. I sang songs at Hillel, slept on countless couches, and learned to love westerns. I made more friends than I can count, fewer enemies than I expected to, and countless contacts I couldn’t possibly have imagined.
I couldn’t possibly list all the experiences I have had in my time here at UCSB in just one column. Hell, my facebook photos can’t even contain my entire college experience, and they have all of cyberspace to spread out in. Besides, this column is already self-centered enough as it is, without a litany of my life experiences to boot.
But, suffice it to say, Santa Barbara has exceeded my expectations and then some. And, as I come within a mere week of my graduation date, I can only look back on it all with love. On all the friends and lovers, all the heartbreak and hangovers, the tests and the tribulations, the good days, the bad days, and the days when all I wanted was five more minutes of sleep and 10 more gallons of coffee.
With a week left, I think I’ve finally gotten a little perspective on the whole pre-college application and decision process. And, as I look back on the past four years, on all the memories made and the memories made obsolete after one too many Millers, on all the people I’ve met and all the people I wish I would have avoided after one too many Millers, on all the things I’ve done and said and experienced in college, one thing seems to stand out. I didn’t choose UCSB. It chose me. And thank god it did.