It’s weird being in an often crowded place when no one’s around. The environment is entirely different from when people are all you see around. With the right circumstances, the feeling is less of abandonment and more of relief. What do I mean?
I took a walk on campus the other night after meeting up with a friend. Compared to the generally crowded environment I’ve gotten used to, and secretly love, the vibe around the place was peaceful and calm. The sun was setting, the lamps were lit, and pedestrians were few and far between. No one was on their way to class or a midterm, no one was being dismissed from one. Rather than the chatter of those reawakened from their in-lecture slumber, or the discussion of whether the answer to #14 was exergonic or endergonic, I could hear the sound of the breeze, the rustling of the trees, and the creek running down. I actually began to notice each individual person as they walked by (a feat I rarely accomplish coming to and from class), as opposed to the hordes (of Asians) or the millions (and millions of the Rock’s…well, you get it). Clearly this was not the noisy, people-packed, tension-filled campus that was my Berkeley experience.
Then again, I’ve always thought about whether this was part of the Berkeley experience, i.e. to experience the place like how a visiting first-grader might experience it—like a huge park, with lots of building. It’s like seeing the other side to a friend I thought I knew well, familiarity mixed with surprise and bewilderment. But as I keep going, I become more fascinated, and eventually embrace this other side as part of the whole I thought I already had. And being pleasantly surprised was very much part of my Berkeley experience.