“Share your name, year, hometown, and major,” my Resident Assistant announces as he explains the icebreaker.
The first-year version of me looks around at our floor’s study lounge. It’s filled with new, nameless faces. As we begin the icebreaker activity, I wonder how many of the names I’ll be able to remember. I think about how many people in the room I would know on a deeper level – more than just their name, year, hometown and major.
“My name is Kirsten. I’m a first-year from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I have no major. I’m Undeclared.”
When the icebreaker ended, the conversations didn’t. I met some of my closest friends on my first-year floor. We experienced everything together – study sessions, football games, dining hall meals and everything in between.
The rest is history.
Today, these icebreakers are still a big part of my life.
My name is Kirsten. I’m a fourth-year from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My major is Psychobiology, and one of the roles I play outside of being a student is serving as a Resident Assistant, or RA. Part of my job is to break the ice.
Funny enough, I met one of my closests friends to this day – Katelynn – at that first icebreaker activity. We now share the same RA staff, striving to help a community of first-years explore all that UCLA has to offer. Just as we did for these last four years.
College is a big transition. So much of your life changes in a short span of time. For many, like myself, it is the first time we must leave home – perhaps everything we’ve ever known.
Living on campus is one of the biggest transitions you’ll encounter. Perhaps you’ll share a room with people you meet the day of. Your meals are not shared around a dining room table, but instead in busy dining halls (which, I might add, are some of the best in the nation). Or maybe you’ll be sharing the bathroom with your entire floor. But your newly found friends could be just a hallway away from you. The Hill, also known as on-campus housing, will always be filled with things for you to do (when you’re not studying, of course). And campus itself comes alive from dusk until dawn.
Residential life at UCLA goes beyond learning the name and major of the people who are on this journey with you. The journey in question is one of academic exploration, emotional growth, and many other surprising things you will come to find throughout your time here. As a community, we understand that such a journey requires solidarity. It is best served with a side of inspiration from our peers. It necessitates motivation from those we look up to and connections with strangers who turn into our closest friends. It requires a home away from home.
That is Residential Life. At first look, you’ll see well-kept buildings, delicious dining hall services (shoutout to my favorite, Bplate – I love you), a state-of-the-art gym just for students, tons of study spaces . . . I could go on forever. But at the end of the day, any institution can build four walls and call it a community. Here, at UCLA, community is a dynamic term that changes as quick as the quarter system goes (and trust me, it is one of the fastest 10 weeks you’ll ever experience). As a community filled with students who come from all walks of life – we celebrate what makes us different. Because it is in honoring what makes each of us different that brings us together. And it is in being together that makes living on-campus so special.
You will come to find that programs across the Hill promote social justice, the academic mission, mental health, and the True Bruin values to name a few. Resident Assistants are always on call to help with any aspect of the student experience. All of this as a means to walk this journey with you. So that even on your longest of days, you have a community to come back to and feel comfort. Safety. Solidarity.
The Hill will always have something for you. Outdoor concerts, musicals, carnivals, karaoke nights, free food galore, pool days at Sunset Recreation center, workouts at BFIT and more await you. And whenever you’re not dabbling in all these activities, you have your RAs to seek academic and extracurricular advice from. You have hundreds of other students living in your very own building who also seek to make new connections. You have De Neve Late Night that starts at 9 P.M. (chicken tenders, curly fries… oh how I’ll miss this).
Although residential life cannot recreate the precious places you call home, we do everything as a community to ensure that your second home is filled to the brim with what helps you get through the day, whatever that may be. All of this, paired with the continual effort to build genuine community. I do not know how I would have managed my own college journey if it weren’t for the friends I found in Rieber Vista – the building I lived in as a first-year.
When you leave home, you come alone. But after my experience, I truly believe that you leave UCLA as part of a community. In rewinding these past four years, I always go back to my first year settling into my new home.
I remember attending karaoke night and singing along to my favorite songs with my RAs. I remember taking the shuttle with my floormates and exploring Los Angeles on the weekends. I’ll never forget studying all night in the floor lounge and watching the sun rise with my roommates (I do recommend sleeping, though). I hold close the time when my closest friends and I lived on the same floor and simply had to walk across the lobby to see each other.
I especially remember that one icebreaker. The activity that started a conversation and eventually a friendship. The one where I shared my Undeclared status and found comfort in the fact that many others were, too. I will never forget how my fear of the unknown and unfamiliar evaporated as the ice broke. As the relationships grew. As I grew less homesick and more at home, in a place so far away yet so close to it.
My experience at UCLA has been so formative and life-changing. I find it very bittersweet that it is coming to an end – but this will always be my home.
Down the line, when you’re a fourth-year like me, I hope you can look back on many fond memories. I hope that you break the ice.
Above all, I hope that you can hold up your graduation sash in a place that you call home.
Congratulations, new Bruins!