Back to the Beginning

Inspired by the start of the new school year, Lifestyle writers reminisce about the academic, social, and cultural experiences that aided them in shaping their identities.


The Beginning of Beginnings: A Fourth Year’s Reflections

Written by Brittney Lu, Associate Lifestyle Editor

First steps onto a college campus are almost disturbingly too similar to the first steps a wavering, table-gripping toddler would attempt. As infants leave the confident comfort of crawling and charge forward — with the near immediate response of tumbling back down — so too can bright-eyed, new students go forth with aspiration, anxious of what tumbles and roadblocks may, or more so inevitably, come.

In 2014, yours truly found herself at the foot of Q200 in Thurgood Marshall College. Completely unsure of how Dimensions of Culture would tie into the development of critical writing skills, she wore “undeclared” like a pitiful badge on her sleeve while hiding desperation, excitement, and newfound independence behind a Ralphs bag of bananas her mom gifted as a parting gesture of proximal parenting. Now, this is not an all-encompassing experience that everyone undergoes but a small piece to a multidimensional, larger narrative that is a UC San Diego college experience. Each experience, background, and story is valid in its own right, and this one just happens to be one of many.

Back to that Saturday in September — after goodbyes had been said and suitemates materialized from behind their Facebook profiles, the reality of new beginnings can settle in alongside the new bed comforter and a room that has been passed down from generations of UCSD Tritons. Come December, novelties wore down as realities unearth and identities shift. And as weeks morphed into months, months into quarters, a Central Valley transplant found herself in a deep sea of courses and part-time jobs that didn’t resurrect any dying dreams, 50 pages deep into Ronald Takaki’s “A Different Mirror,” and wondering whether or not she’d actually find a job in four years while eating greasy quesadillas on a Wednesday night.

Unbeknownst to this Marshall-ite freshman was that the beginning of college would lead into a deeper acknowledgement of “beginnings.” Rather than forging a crusade ahead, the start of freshman year ignited a trajectory that reflected backward in order to understand more fully how to go forward. The beginning of college catalyzed some extracurricular learning of internalized identities. Freshman year was a reminder of how family sacrifices simultaneously for past, present, and future generations as I spent hours re-analyzing what it meant to be a daughter. Sophomore year looked back to the implications of navigating between the worlds of being Chinese at home and trying to be American everywhere else, not to mention the additional layer gender always brings along. Junior year encompassed the origins of why there was a personal pursuit of public health academia to begin with. Retrospectively, the beginning of freshman year only kickstarted the exposure of earlier, unprocessed identities and hopes.

Fast forward to fall of 2017, and a little Central Valley transplant finds herself at the foot of a campus she has walked too many times now. Assured now that DOC taught more than writing, but how word translates into voice, and how voice translates into activism. She wears public health and urban studies more like a proud badge on her sleeve and tentatively exposes vulnerability rather than hiding desperation. But she now also embraces a cross section of identities and redemption of past aspirations. She still carries a bag of bananas, bought herself this time around, and with it, her mom’s advice to eat more fruits and vegetables.

Her only complaint is for OceanView Terrace to bring back the greasy quesadillas every Wednesday night.


My Odyssey at the Original Student Center 

Written by Sam Velazquez, Editor-in-Chief

Nestled past Revelle’s flat cement grid of apartments and bike racks is our very own Original Student Center, a veritable eyesore of aged wood and ‘70s aesthetic design. I’m proud to call it home.

“Couches, couches, couches, couches, which one should I pick?!?” Kanye’s deep appreciation of furnishings with both form and function is inspirational and, put simply, easy to sympathize with. Who doesn’t enjoy a brief moment of lumbar support or a spot to collapse on after work, before meetings, and on the way to class? I can’t speak for all, but I will — we all do. Sure, it may have been the aura of community and anti-authoritarianism prevalent in the center’s air that dragged me in, but the couches are what kept me there. My freshmen year, with little to do but spend $12 per meal at our dining halls or continue watching “Weeds” en masse with the suite, had nothing going on until I attended a Guardian recruitment event. It all changed the moment I entered those sweet offices that one fateful 73 F winter day.

With couches spread out as far as my astigmatic eyes could see, I began to question my being. Was I alive? Was this heaven? Was this hell? A glitch in the matrix? A hedonist’s fever dream? No, this was just a humble spot willing to shelter the poor, vitamin-deficient bodies of aspiring writers from the uncaring sun. Every passing month, every passing glance directed at the couches while cruising through the office had established a sense of comfort usually held only by the truly free people who wear toe socks and crocs without irony. Would this — four old, nay, aged couches — be the peak of my uneventful life? No, sirree, you gotta catch them all.

My journey didn’t stop there; after visiting the hallowed halls of the Guardian Offices, I continued my quest through the Original Student Center. The General Store Co-Op, in its self-sufficient and cooperative glory, housed three more couches. There was no turning back after that. If I secured a job there, I’d become an honorary resident of the Original Student Center, free to dart between my fellow couches on a daily basis. With my lack of self-control and penchant for plush furniture, no one could stop me. Days after, I came in with all required documents blazing. I wasn’t hired. Don’t fear, dear reader; I care too much about couches and cooperatives to give up after one try. After another shameless attempt the following quarter, I achieved nirvana. Employed and ebullient at a nexus of convenience. Who needs capital when you have comfort?

There’s something about this center’s walls and stuccoed ceilings that escapes flattering description. There’s abundant natural lighting, but that has been the sun’s responsibility for a couple years now. Lacking in aesthetics but high on life, there’s a certain serenity here that isn’t present anywhere else on campus. For lack of a better word and another open search tab, this place truly is special. Nowhere else will you find cheap vegan food, Arizonas for the oft-unrespected price of $1 as it says on the can, radical literature, student radio, a sci-fi library, and a bounty of chalkboard sexual innuendo. I should know, I’m going to practically live here again for one final year.


From a Decision to Accomplishments 

Written by: Alice Lee, Lifestyle Contributing Writer

Autumn is the season that feels more like a new year than the actual new year at the beginning of January. Going through the K-12 education system, my body and brain had been accustomed to feel that way along with feeling the cool breeze in my face and admiring colorful leaves as “back to school” begins. If going back to school made me feel simultaneously annoyed and excited thinking about homework and new friends, at some point, I became callous to those sentiments.

Before coming to UC San Diego, I took my time in a local community college after graduating from high school. My parents were surprisingly chill with my decision, as they seemed to understand my years of struggle living an unsettling life. My brother and I moved to different countries and schools every other year, so I really wanted to have a long break and settle down after carefully thinking how I should figure out my future. Thankfully, I got accepted to UCSD as a communication major in Fall Quarter 2016.

To be honest, my first impression of UCSD was not the best with friends parroting “UC Socially Dead.” In addition, when I first arrived at my dorm, many roommates were jet-lagged so there was barely any communication between us. I also found myself somewhat lucky as a first-year transfer student being placed in a single room, but as solitary as it was, I began to think I’d probably graduate with no friends. However as the days went, I grew to love the people and the school around me. Soon, roommates became friends and we all took advantage of the blessed location of the school. Living close to nature, such as La Jolla’s beaches and nearby hiking trails, and having a cute downtown to visit provided us peace and solace. For the first time I could remember, I felt stability in my life.

I wanted a chance to study in a new environment outside my comfort zone and to make new friends by attending UCSD. I also hoped to make myself busy with club activities. So far, I am not disappointed when it comes to accomplishing those goals. But, I still believe there are more things to do here at UCSD. I trust my decision and hope to see what the school has to offer me in the future.

Now, as I begin the new autumn season and Fall Quarter, I am beginning this “new year” as a new person with different thoughts, perspectives, and ideologies than last fall. In fact, I even gained a new opportunity to study abroad in Seoul, Korea. Now, it is impossible to imagine myself at a different school. I believe UCSD’s people and its culture have provided me with good experiences that changed me for the better.


Fashion Statements: Adapting to the San Diego Vibe

Written by Marcus Thuillier, Lifestyle Contributing Writer

When I first moved to San Francisco for high school, it did not feel like that much of a change from Paris. San Francisco is a pretty European city — small, compact, multiethnic, and multicultural. The vibe specific to San Francisco in some neighborhoods is very similar, not incredibly overwhelming but rather, iconic. I had gotten used to dressing up for school, wearing boots, jeans, suspenders, and ties. I was known to be the “guy who dresses well.” It didn’t take long for some people at my new school to ask me point blank if I was metrosexual. But it didn’t really matter. San Francisco had a manageable climate and an overall accepting community that celebrated diversity and differences. Haight-Ashbury became a refuge where I wasn’t worried about what others would think of me. Then came college.

The San Diego vibe, especially on campus, was very different from what I was used to. Especially during orientation and Week 0, my only concern was to fit in. Out were the boots, button downs, and suspenders and in were the jeans, T-shirts, and sneakers. For the first few weeks of my freshman year, I had to make up events for which I would dress up. I didn’t feel confident enough to just say: I’m dressing up because I want to. There always had to be a reason, a club meeting, an important interview. But the confidence slowly grew.

That’s when I hit another roadblock. If you’ve ever waited in line for a career fair or walked across campus to get to class, you’ll have noticed that Southern California fashion is primarily based on weather. Just walking five minutes will have me drenched in sweat, gasping for air, and trying desperately to understand why in the world I thought wearing several layers of clothing was a good idea. Now, some people managed to be impeccably dressed at all times, regardless of the weather, and I say props to them. But I couldn’t, and I learned to pick my days and adapt my outfits to manage one temperature in the morning and another one in the afternoon.

Moving off campus my third year made this even harder. Suddenly I couldn’t just come back home and change, I always had to plan for the whole day. With time, I adapted, and am now able to complete that challenge. My wardrobe has evolved from carrying a bouquet of colors to monochromatic tones of black, white, and red. My style has mostly stayed the same from my first day in college until today: polos, button downs, suspenders, ties, and socks, plenty of wonderfully colorful socks. As I begin my fourth and final year here at UCSD, I’d like to think I’ve mastered the San Diego weather. I do not know if that’s correct, but I’ve at least improved. And this year, maybe I can finally say I’m dressed this way because I want to.


Tales of a Philippine Life: Back to My Roots

Written by Annika Olives, Lifestyle Head Editor

This summer, I had the opportunity to revisit my heart’s first home.

Equipped with a book, fuzzy socks, and one pre-downloaded episode of “The Flash” that I hadn’t seen yet, my mother, brother, and I boarded a plane for the 14-hour flight that would take us 7,000 miles over the Pacific, zooming past Hawaii and Guam and eventually landing in Manila, Philippines.

It’s been nearly 12-and-a-half years since I last lived on those islands. When I was six, we packed our bags and moved to the opposite side of the globe to glittery San Francisco, where I’ve lived ever since. I grew up in California, and though I don’t have many memories of the Philippines, as soon as we stepped off the plane into the damp humidity, I felt a sense of relief and calm wash over me.

To me, the Philippines is emblematic of my youth, a fairytale land that I only really remember because of the stories told about it. But that doesn’t make it any less special. Where I’m from is coconuts fresh off trees and wading in crystal waters, pushing past people on bustling sidewalks and finding the best banana or turon from a street vendor. Where I’m from is sinking into the same couch at my grandparents’ that I’ve been sitting on for years, the heavy tones of Tagalog ringing through the walls, and the smell of sizzling garlic starting off a meal. Where I’m from is frizzy hair that no product can really fix, sitting bravely through thunderstorms even though I’m still afraid of them sometimes, visiting a relative that lives on the 42nd floor, getting to see the expanse that is Manila spread out before me, and shacks and skyscrapers coexisting in a world that doesn’t seem quite real.

Where I’m from is a mix of my past and my present self, a blending of childhood and adulthood. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be writing about what it means to grow up in two wildly different countries and what my five-week trip to the Philippines taught me. I’ve learned so many things about culture, family, home, and many more abstract concepts, but I’ve also learned a lot about my own identity. For me, going back this summer was incredibly regrounding and eye-opening, and I’m excited to share my stories and experiences with you all.

Inspired by my recent trip to the Philippines, Tales of a Philippine Life is a weekly column exploring culture, family, mindsets, home, and more. If you have a response to one of my pieces, feel free to send it along to [email protected].

[Read my next column here.]

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