On the day right before my departure back home, my friends and I took our very last and very sentimental walk from Westwood to UCLA to our apartment on Landfair. We stopped by at all our favorite food chains in Westwood to pick up one serving from each (so that we would be able to eat all those different kinds and manage not to stuff our faces to death- pretty smart, eh?), took the longer route around campus to get to an area suitable for a picnic, and traced our footsteps back home like we did every weekday for the school year. We made a big deal out of it. Being the corny person that I am, I wanted to capture every scenery in my eyes, in my memory and in my heart. So I took pictures, loads and loads of pictures, as I walked.
View from Citybank, where my friends would come once a month to withdraw cash.
I still remember the impression of fanciness that the building with the dome gave me the first time I walked those streets. Yamamoto, closed last summer, still remains in the center of Westwood.
The quiet sidewalks by the medical buildings.
I usually walked this area by myself and I’ve always felt lonely. I can’t remember when I started to find comfort in that subtle pain of being alone, but I feel warm and even energized looking at this picture now.
A random medical building that I’ve grown to become familiar with.
I had a class in a library of rare/sacred texts and it was in a building on this corner. I got lost getting there (of course) but fortunately met a friend and we had a little adventure before we made it to class. We walked out of the building together, talking about our interests within our major. I wonder how she’s doing now.
Views from the very last crosswalk to campus.
I hated waiting for the lights to change, so I almost always took the side road in front of the conference center. There were so many chill people on these streets each morning, while I was almost always the busiest, taking rapid steps and chomping on an apple or, preferably, a banana.
View of the new conference center and its newly installed lights.
When these lights turned on at night, there was a strange romantic feeling it brought about in me. I always thought it was strange and kinda cute.
Constructions going on across from the conference center.
For some reason, I thought I was going to miss the constructions that were always happening on campus. I don’t miss them too much, but maybe I will later on.
My friend’s favorite steps.
I climbed up these steps just one time. It was a rather mellow morning and the observation that everyone always seemed to head this direction got to me out of nowhere.
A point of intersection in campus (feat. UCLA Store, Ashe Center & John Wooden Center).
I was always lowkey scared of bumping into someone, because of the genuine chaos that existed on these grounds during the mornings.
I was supposed to meet a friend at a café in this building, but I got lost (which is so very typical of me). So I asked a group of random people for directions and they were so so friendly.
The curvy brick road to get to Powell Library and the views on it.
I ran into so many people here: my former roommate, my former TA and a friend from my apartment. I was always in a rush and it’s a shame I never made time to lay down on the grassy hills, because I always thought the hills looked crazy peaceful.
From the all-nighters during exam weeks to using the media lab to watch movies for class, I have so many memories in this place.
I kinda hate myself for hating the sunshine in front of Royce Hall.
Not a random picture of trees casting shadows on the street.
Turning the corner here would get me to the building where I had Spanish 2. My heart used to beat a little faster from the excitement of seeing my classmates and nervousness of having to compose sentences on the spot.
Views from the walk to Melnitz Hall, my favorite.
The only memory about this place worth keeping is the conversation I had with my Spanish TA that one time I stayed behind to pick up an assessment paper that I forgot to take the previous week. I randomly brought up my Spanish friend who I met through the international center and asked him for advice about what I should talk about with him to practice speaking. I did it purely to avoid awkward silences, but it ended up getting him to become more fond(?) of me. After that day, he greeted me differently in class, I could tell.
The famous Sculpture Garden.
I ended up taking a very artsy picture of my friends walking ahead of me with determination to find a picnic spot.
Our picnic food!
We ate as we made direct eye contact with the sculpture lady’s butt.
The film class I took in this building opened my eyes to the fun in analyzing film and the talent I just might have in deriving meanings out of them, appreciating their values.
North Campus open area (without the iconic purple flowers).
I spent spare hours between classes in this area, sometimes with a classmate, sometimes on my own. I always felt so relaxed and calm sitting in one of the tables.
The path I took to get to the dorms.
These places stir up a sense of relief that I felt after a day’s end. Walking down these steps required no effort and I sometimes even enjoyed the luxury of observing the trees, the sky and all of nature.
Student Academy Center, Kaufman Hall & Janss Steps
This area, I identify with the first couple of months in the states. I was very often confused when I first started studying at UCLA. I remember how I made use of my strolls in this area by organizing my thoughts and making plans for the day.
Walk up to my apartment.
On this last walk, my friends and I all commented on how the red windowsills of our building is visible from that point and how it was going to be the last time we see it from this direction. I think all of us became more emotionally attached to our apartment than the campus through the months, which is natural when you think about the difference in stress that comes from taking classes (referring to the campus) and sleeping, eating and generally living (referring to the apartment).
The tunnel had so much significance. It was a meeting point for a lot of occasions too.
Strathmore & Gayley.
I used to pass by these places a lot more when I lived in the dorms. I don’t really remember how I felt, but walking the streets for the very last time made me think about how much I felt at home when I started walking up the hills to get to my dorm room. It got me missing my days in the dorms.
Views from my friend’s room of the surrounding area.
The two most visible things from these pictures are the tunnel and a frat house, Triangle something something. I never really did anything at one of those frat houses so it isn’t that I feel a personal tie to them, but I have an image of them in my head. With their presence, they created a loud, festive and youthful atmosphere, and I loved living close to it. I know I’m going to miss the environment, the entirety of it.
It’s incredible how such short amount of time spent in an area can give a person such powerful senses of belonging. I lived last year like I did all my life: I struggled with daily tasks, prioritized my enjoyment above most things, strived to connect with more people and maintained an overall “good and lawful (as my mom would say)” life. Then how come last year was so impactful while others slipped away most of the times? Now that I’ve spent some time back home, grown a little distant from my dream-like experience of living in LA, I see that there wasn’t much of a difference in how I carried out each day but in how I perceived things in my daily life. I was always mindful of “the terminating point”. Especially towards the end, I started paying more attention to detail, tried harder to remember, and everything I did meant more to me.
To take this observation a step further, I should be able to feel this much attachment to my life back home, or anywhere else, if I stay aware of the fact that there is an end to everything. Perhaps I would be able to treasure more in life if I start the day by telling myself that this life will have its end and this day will never repeat itself. I used to think that there was no point in thinking about the inevitable ephemerality of the human, since we can’t do anything about it while it so obviously exists. I thought the best way to live was to forget about that darkness at the end and live carelessly, freely and happily. Now I see that choosing to stay ignorant of the truth limits our freedom, and consequently keeps us from a grander happiness that we could have for ourselves. But I’m not advocating that we dwell on death and the end of all things, because too much of such thoughts can also keep one from experiencing all that is there in life. Ultimately, some ignorance seems necessary. In other words, we mustn’t lose the somewhat naïve hope that what we sense and do can get us to reach a certain culminating point as human beings. Then, what seems most desirable to me now is mediation- finding a balance between believing in the goodness of the universe and acknowledging the end.
A quote from a film that shares my observation on the way to live life:
“And in the end I think I’ve learned the final lesson from my travels in time; and I’ve even gone one step further than my father did: The truth is I now don’t travel back at all, not even for the day, I just try to live every day as if I’ve deliberately come back to this one day, to enjoy it, as if it was the full final day of my extraordinary, ordinary life. We’re all traveling through time together, every day of our lives. All we can do is do our best to relish this remarkable ride.”
From About Time (2013) by Richard Curtis, starring Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams.
An ending note to self: I’m amazed to be concluding “Exchange Student Diaries” with a personal observation that makes a connection with a film. This post binds everything I’ve posted so far in this blog, and I feel like the two things I care very deeply about are being brought together in a peculiar and hopeful manner. I feel a strange sense of balance and satisfaction in my life at the moment, and I feel that I can get a good night’s sleep tonight (Yes, I’m ending this post with all these feels).