Tonight, my closest friend from when I attended UC Berkeley, sent me a friend request on Facebook after searching for her online for years, sometimes what felt like hours at a time. I just about screamed when I saw it and ended up actually crying while sending her my first message. Over the years I have also unsuccessfully searched for others I made friends with from our 7th floor dorm in Freeborn Hall at Unit 1. (I have even sent messages numerous times to people through various social networks with the same names asking if they knew me from Freeborn Hall and all apologized for having to say no, lol).
Decided to search again, now using Facebook, and to my absolute delight found four more. These 10 to 15 friends that I knew for only a year, almost 20 years ago, had forever changed me.
I transferred l in my junior year after Napa Valley College in 1991. I chose not to live in junior transfer housing because I am lazy and there was a freshmen dorm closer to the campus. I chose an all girls floor because I didn’t want to share my bathroom with boys. Both of these decisions ended up being some of the most valuable ones I made regarding college.
Growing up in the very secluded and then mostly white town of Napa, moving to Berkeley, particularly the closeness I gained to so many amazing people from different races and ethnicities, a whole new world opened up to me. Even though I had always had an interest in race issues, diversity, other cultures, countries, etc. my actual experiences consisted of visiting Chinatown in SF a few times. Even though I was 21 and some of these girls hadn’t even turned 18 yet, they seemed so much more mature and obviously more “cultured” than I did.
Instead of scoffing at things like my thinking Asian markets only existed in Chinatown, let alone that most Asians are Chinese, these girls took me under their wing and shared each of their cultures with me. I learned about life being East Indian, Korean, Creole, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Black, and the daughter of a Mexican farm worker. My life has been forever changed because of it and most likely they have no idea of the magnitude their influence had on me. Within weeks I even changed my major from History to Social Science so I could have an “interdisciplinary field studies” major with a concentration in Race/Ethnic Issues in Education. Because of this I not only got to take undergraduate Education courses but also ones from different departments like Ethnic Studies, Mexican American History, Sociology of Race Relations and many other truly, truly amazing classes.
Getting the opportunity to re-connect is so important also because these were really the only “college friends” I had. The majority of us became close living on the 7th floor of Freeborn Hall. My next and only other year at Cal, I spent in an apartment living my first year being married, involved in a fast growing ministry, working at my first real job, being active in social justice causes, and writing my senior thesis. This led to very little time to make new friends at school, let alone grow close to them.
Some of these girls had such a positive experience in our dorm that they decided to do it again for a second year. All reported at the time that it was nothing like ours and that everyone pretty much kept to themselves with their doors closed most of the time. This is a far contrast to us who lived in each other’s rooms. To me, it felt like we lived as one huge family involved with each other’s lives. We even waited for each other to go to the dinning hall for meals each day in one huge group.
I invited my entire dorm floor to my wedding the following summer and many of them came. One even transported and played her harp while my guests were being seated. They all chipped in to buy us an expensive rice maker that we still use today. This was a larger model of the Asian ones they brought from home that I fell in love with.
So, I would like to express deep appreciation to for the friendships we shared and for making my first year at UC Berkeley one of the best ones I’ve had. Like I said, my life has been impacted more than you know. At the time I’m not sure I even knew how much.