Trust walks on campus

It’s been over a month now since I left UCLA, and I can say without a doubt that the thing I miss most is the beautiful campus. I’ve been trying hard to be awed by the places I’ve been this summer, but even the streets of San Francisco do not affect me in the same way a walk through south campus does.

During the school year, I try to take as many walks as possible through campus. I’ll take them after class, wind my way around the botanical gardens, go peek behind the Chancellor’s house, maybe try to make my way into the basement of Royce. The list goes on. Often I can find new places on campus that I’ve never been to before (like the emergency exit patio on the roof of the Law School or the secret steps leading away from Bradley Courtyard), but sometimes it feels like I’ve walked all over campus.

Now, this may be true, but it doesn’t mean that aren’t any opportunities for new exploration. I’m talkin’ about night walks. And not just any night walks, I’ve done those before. I mean eye-closed, friend-leading-you-with-her-voice night walks. My friend Gina and I started doing these in spring quarter. If we had free time in the evening, we would head down to a deserted campus and do a “trust walk” (as we started calling them). Basically, you just start your walk somewhere familiar, close your eyes, and your friend takes you on a long convoluted walk to another part of campus. When you arrive, you get to guess where you are (a guess that is really never right).

When you do these trust walks, your concept of distance and terrain gets pretty wonky. Once, Gina had led me down a walkway I take almost everyday on my way home from class, but with my eye’s closed I was convinced we had gone up some huge hill. I remember asking Gina if she had taken me deep into south campus and if we were near the parking garage on Hilgard. We were next to the Wooden Center.

Most of what I find beautiful about UCLA are the sights. The buildings and trees and paths are all so visually-stimulating! But experiencing campus without all of that was so different and new. I felt like I was visiting places that didn’t exist even though I had gone on the same walk in the previous week.

Even though I know the campus pretty well, there is totally still room for me to get to know it better. And it seems there is an endless supply of interesting and surprising walks to take at UCLA.

UCLA Luskin Lecture for Thought Leadership

Gina gave you the scoop on how having the former president come to campus shook things up, but how about an insider’s look! I was one of those lucky students she mentioned who got to go see Clinton speak (for free, woo woo!).

Besides a bunch of extra security à la the secret service (which made me feel like I was in the White House) having Bill Clinton at UCLA was just extremely cool.

I had seen Clinton speak last year as part of a political rally with Gavin Newsom and our then almost-governor Jerry Brown. Although I like politics, I hadn’t really felt super connected to the whole political scene. Attending the rally and hearing those guys speak about jobs and alternative energy and just politics in general was so ~intriguing~ and got me super excited about the political process (Jerry Brown’s election as a governor was the first election I had ever got to vote in!).

Wednesday’s lecture was exactly the same – except this time, Clinton wasn’t talking to his audience about politics and we weren’t gathered in clumps on the grass. We all watched him give a fab lecture on our common humanity in Royce Auditorium (which is basically the prettiest place on UCLA’s campus). The lecture was as inspiring as the rally. He shared his knowledge with us about how to solve humanitarian crises, what we should be doing to create positive change, and mostly just how to be a better person.

The most special moment of the night was when he told us a story about some pictures he had bought in UCLA’s bookstore (pictures that he had bought 41 years ago with his then girlfriend Hilary!). He said he has them hanging in his house and that he thinks about UCLA everyday when he looks at those pictures (awwwww).

The night was awesome – how often do you get to see Bill Clinton speak for free?! Oh yeah, I guess it’s about once a year here at UCLA. 🙂

A Blustery Day

Around this time each year, I like to watch the movie the Holiday with Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz (oh and like Jude Law and that Jack Black character, but I prefer these two fab  ladies). Thankfully, it has been on my mind lately (as in I have been reciting dialogue in my head). One conversation in particular between Kate and Jack is about the famous Santa Ana winds. Having never actually experienced these winds, I always kind of just stared at Kate Winslet during that part. But not anymore. I have experienced the Santa Anas.

It all started out like a normal day. Beautiful weather – a little cold – but nice. But pretty soon into the day, the sky seemed like it was yelling or least taking really big sighs. If you looked at the trees, they appeared to be doing a giant coordinated, although kind of erratic, dance.

By the evening, the winds had started going just plain crazy wild. At one point I was standing on the balcony of Royce and I felt like I was going to be swept up. Even thinking about it now makes me shiver! And the winds were loud. I had a meeting and at one point I couldn’t hear the speaker because the winds were that loud.

The wind even came into my dorm room. About every three minutes there would be a huge burst of wind and it rattle my reusable water bottles. It even messed with some of my ceiling tiles. I had to climb up on my chair and fix it!

Walking around the next day, the ground was completely littered with tree-related articles. There were leaves and pine needles, and even huge strips of bark that had been ripped from the tree trunks. There were even trees that fell down. A pretty big one near the inverted fountain took a tumble during the middle of the night (I wish I had been there to see that!).

But apparently, we did not even have it that bad compared to other areas of California. My friend who goes to school near Pasadena said that she could not sleep because of how loud the wind was, not to mention that it wasn’t just leaves on the ground the next day but lots of whole trees.

The Sanata Anas are crazy, and even though they are a tad inconvenient, they are a ton of fun. Hopefully we will have more of them, just not too big!


Photograph © 2003 by Alan Nyiri, courtesy of the Atkinson Photographic Archive.


It is my last day of summer, and instead of being out drinking Starbucks (what I should be doing), I am indoors packing all of my entire everything into trash bags. It is my fault. I waited and procrastinated until all my packing got squeezed into this one day. So, to de-stress I am (of course) listening to Beyonce and writing a blog post. I created a collection of haikus that bid farewell to summer, say hello to fall quarter, and talk about a whole bunch of other stuff that is happening in my UCLA life.

Underwear in bed

Glass of ice water with me

Am blogging, boo yeah

‘Twas this time last year

That mom was helping me pack

All of my clothing

Beginning of school

Excited for Bruin Bash

Who’s Kendrick Lamar?

Move-in will be fun

Already know my RA

Her name is Ann Du

Face trauma summer

Broken nose and wisdom teeth

Luckily still cute

Already miss Mom

Parent’s Weekend comes up fast

But why Halloween?!

Last year’s Halloween

Wore a camouflage t-shirt

Was an “army guy”

This year’s Halloween

Will be wearing chef costume

Make microwaved tea

Excited for class

Get to use my brain again

But please not too tough

Stoked for the dorm food

Want Cafe 1919

Caprese salad

Walking everywhere

Walking to and from Westwood

Walking to class, too

I’ve missed you, Bradley

And your fabulous courtyard

Study date soon, yes?

Finally, goodbye

Thanks for the fun, San Jose

This is a baiku

I didn’t mention Royce Hall, even though I miss that building a lot, too. I am so happy that summer is over and that I get to go back to one of Earth’s best places (I hate claiming anywhere is the best place on Earth), and do a bajillion 8-claps. UCLA, here I come!

The stairs at UCLA and why the ones they call the “Awkward Steps” are the only ones that feel right

Let me start by saying that I am 6’2″ (6’3″ if you ask my mom), and more than half of that is my legs. I am what you would call extremely lanky, spider-like, even. If I didn’t love eating ice cream so much, I would make one hell of a long distance runner. With that said, stairs were not designed for someone with my stature. Usually, people walk up stairs one by one, but if I do this my stride is stunted. Taking stairs one by one feels like having to run the mile with your shoe laces tied together. You can never make a full step and your hips start saying things like, “hey, man, extend your legs all the way, we are freaking out down here.” So, I change my stair-climbing technique. I take two stairs at a time so that my legs don’t feel all squished. The downside is that taking two steps at a time means that I sprint up the stairs. Two bad things about sprinting up stairs:

  1. taking corners too fast and either slamming into the wall or into another person
  2. arriving at the top of the stairs completely out of breath and uncomfortably moist

Nevertheless, I continue to take the two-step approach because my talking hips freak me out.

Now usually, this whole thing applies to standard steps. These are the ones you will encounter in your dorm building, beside the Fowler museum, inside Royce, etc etc. But, UCLA does not believe in having exclusively standard stairs and the architects decided to make some pretty wacky stairways on the campus. The two that come to mind immediately would be the famous Janss steps of the original campus and the Covel stairs, colloquially referred to as the “awkward steps” or sometimes by my shorter friends as “ahhhgrrhhrh”. Janss steps, while totally beautiful and equipped with a stunning vantage point, are exceedingly difficult for me to ascend. They are too deep for me to take two at a time without jumping but are still too close together and short for me to easily climb one by one. I usually alternate between stepping one then jumping two, which I’m sure makes me look like I’m playing some sort of diagonal hopscotch.

The Covel steps are another story. They are glorious. I heard that the people who designed them wanted to create a staircase that girls could easily run up. I guess a running girl’s stride is my walking stride because taking Covel steps is absolutely fantastic. I mean, I feel like a gazelle. The same cannot be said for all of my other friends who are quite a bit shorter than I am. My 5’2″ friend takes two steps on each step of the Covel steps (steps step step steps). Basically, I belong to a very small minority of people that find the infamous “awkward steps” should actually be called the “perfect steps”.

There are other fun staircases at UCLA. There are long Harry Potter-esque stairs that jut out high above your head in the CNSI building. There is a cute winding staircase that leads to the botanical gardens. There is a set of steps near the neuroscience building that look like they are leading to an ancient Egyptian hang out spot. Bottom line: UCLA rules the world of stairs, both funky and traditional.