Eye on UCSD: Secondhand Shopping

    When entering the UCSD Friends of the International Center Resale Shop, a bitter yet endearing scent of “”loved”” items can be detected immediately. Looking further into the cluttered corners of this two-room thrift store, an array of strange and exotic treasures is found. A colorful vintage Givenchy scarf is stuffed into a bowl labeled “”50 cents each,”” a pair of Urban Outfitters-worthy leather boots sits atop a rack of shoes and an elegant yet worn-looking silver tray seems to wait patiently for a customer to take it home. This collection of eclectic items tends to be a normal batch of merchandise at the 26-year-old business.

    Hydie Cheung/Guardian

    “”You find a bunch of weird things that are actually really cool,”” Revelle College freshman Priyanka Soni said. “”They’re interesting, cheap and come from a really diverse group of materials that you couldn’t really find in a department store.””

    Located on the southeast corner of the UCSD International Center, the resale shop was started in 1981 by the Friends of the International Center, a volunteer organization committed to supporting international education and forming cooperative relationships within the international community. Gayle Barsamian, a former UCSD staff member and current resale shop coordinator, is in charge of running the thrift store.

    “”Proceeds go to UCSD scholarships for international education and are a major source of funds for the scholarships awarded by the Friends of the International Center,”” Barsamian said in an e-mail. “”Last year we were able to give out over $50,000 to UCSD students studying abroad or international students studying here.””

    Hydie Cheung/Guardian
    A UCSD Friend of the International Center wraps some glassware on a cluttered counter at the resale shop. The staff are all volunteers, and include spouses of some UCSD faculty and visiting international students looking to practice their English.

    In addition to its generous financial assistance for international and study abroad students, the resale shop is tied to the community through the various donations it receives. The store’s merchandise comes from an assortment of consignment stores in La Jolla, international visitors who are leaving San Diego and students who are looking to clean out their dorms at the end of the school year.

    “”We like to think that we are part of the recycling movement in a big way,”” Barsamian said.

    The shop’s volunteers are comprised of a large population of warm-hearted elderly citizens (who are often spouses of staff members) and international visitors, as well as international students who are looking to practice their English-speaking skills. This combination helps create a welcoming and friendly shopping environment, an alien concept to those used to commercial retail.

    “”The staff is really helpful and nice,”” Revelle College freshman Katherine Lu said. “”It’s easy to just strike up a conversation with them, and they’re always willing to help you out.””

    The volunteers’ connection with their customers is one of the unique aspects of shopping at this on-campus thrift store.

    “”We’re not personal shoppers, but if a student needs something specific, we’ll try to help them out,”” Barsamian said. “”Once, we helped pick out warmer clothes for an Australian student who was going to visit Montana, and we get a lot of students who are shopping for themed parties on Fridays.””

    Among the racks of clearance items located on the shady patio outside the shop is an artistically decorated sign advertising the day’s special sales.

    “”A regular customer did that for us,”” Barsimian said. “”She’s an art student who shops here a lot, and one day we just asked her if she could spend some time on it.””

    Beyond its function as the store’s lone advertisement to curious students passing by, it also stands as a symbol of the symbiotic relationship the resale shop shares with the campus community. Students contribute to the store and, in turn, receive aid and antiques.

    The resale shop is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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