Here I am at the end of my Freshman year at UCLA. I am studying for finals, finishing up projects, and eating a ton of junk food. As this year closes, I reflect back on my experiences thus far. Sure I have done really awesome things and made totally amazing friends, but I think my fondest memory is discovering the Botanical Gardens in South Campus.

Fall quarter, before I had really met anyone and before I got involved in anything, I used to walk around the campus exploring. I didn’t go hardcore exploring, like I never scaled any walls and the places I “discovered” had of course already been found. Really, I just tried to familiarize myself with UCLA. About halfway through fall quarter, I was strolling through South Campus, and I remembered hearing something about the Botanical Gardens.  I expected something small and tame, probably with a large greenhouse and a one way path. The gardens I found were quite different. The place was huge and had many different parts. Upon entering you could choose a variety of paths, ones made out of stepping stones and others of dirt and gravel. Once inside, you walked on a bridge that carried you above a stream that ran through the gardens. If you kept walking up, you eventually came to a desert-like area filled with cactus. Patches of flowers made the air sweet.

The Botanical Gardens soon became my favorite place to go on campus. In the middle, by the stream, there were two tables with attached benches. the spot was perfect for studying and eating a panini you had gotten at cafe 1919. Hordes of turtles sunbathed by the water, and the trees offered lots of shade. The gardens were great because they were a sort of escape. LA is so busy and there is hardly any nature. Being surrounded by the tall bamboo and lush greenery made you feel at ease, especially helpful during midterms. Even though many people know about it, I feel it is one of UCLA’s best kept secrets and definitely one of my favorite places to relax, walk, and study.