Want to relive a first college visit? Last Tuesday, I spent a day at UC Davis -- a beautiful campus for my first college visit.
On my way to Davis, I wondered what the university would be like. Large, of course -- I knew that much from my friend who was studying there. It's the largest UC campus, after all!
UC Davis was about an hour and a half from where I lived, so my dad and I drove along miles of freeway and over the newly-built Benicia Bridge to Davis. The terrain was surprisingly flat -- there was quite a bit of farmland, too -- a vivid contrast from the East Bay where there were hills in every direction you looked.
I arrived at UC Davis just two days into the spring quarter for a campus tour with some other students from my school. Our tour guide, Andrea, was a junior from Los Angeles, and was excited to share with us what she knew about this school. The tour started with a walk to the arboretum, which turned out to be my favorite part of the UC Davis campus. The UC Davis arboretum features 22,000 different kinds of plants, arranged in a series of gardens which are studied by the plant biology department. The arboretum has its historical significance, too. It used to be the home of the Patwin people and it has an ancient oak which used to mark the boundary between an early Mexican land grant. But most of all, it seemed the perfect place to spend time between classes, eat lunch or relax on that wonderful California spring day.
On that day, the arboretum was quiet and peaceful, with some students sitting here and there, reading, studying, or just looking. Turns out, that wouldn't have been the case on Picnic Day, the largest student-run festival in the United States. On Picnic Day, thousands of students gather at the arboretum to watch magic shows organized by the chemistry department, parades, Doxie derby (daschund races), film screenings, and, of course, the famous Battle of the Bands between bands from different universities.
"Along our path today, you're going to be seeing 40,000 different types of plants and bushes, which makes us the greenest campus in the United States," our tour guide told us. She sprinkled in many facts about UC Davis throughout the tour, this being one of them: UC Davis was definitely an environmentally conscious school. In fact, nuclear energy powers all of UC Davis's campus! I saw many recycle bins on the tour, too. UC Davis's hydrology department is well known, too. It even has a Nobel Peace Prize winner working there.
There are many open spaces throughout the campus. Despite having about 30,000 students, the campus didn't feel overly crowded at all -- and that, too, on the second day of the quarter!
UC Davis has its own little quirks and interesting things about the campus and the buildings. First, there are the Eggheads -- as their name suggests, they are egg-shaped statues -- five of them in total. One of the round and white eggheads was the Bookhead in front of the library. Meant to mimic UC Davis students, it was a sculpture of an egghead buried in the middle of a book with its eyes wide open. Want good luck? Just rub the statue. Apparently, many students believe that because the paint wears thin at the beginning of the quarter.
UC Davis's Social Sciences department's building has its odd side, too. The designer of the building modeled it after the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, Calif., a house with many unexplained odditie. The Social Sciences building has stairways that lead nowhere, elevators that don't work, etc. Why, you ask? Its designer wanted students to ask for directions (be social) -- since it is the Social Sciences Department, after all!
A characteristic feature of UC Davis is the number of bikes on campus. Bikes are the most common means of transportation on the UC Davis campus (very convenient, too, for such a large campus -- not to mention earth-friendly!). Practically everywhere that I looked on campus, there were bikes, bikes and more bikes. UC Davis even had its own "Bike Barn," the place to get students' bikes fixed if they get a flat, the chain falls off, etc. Each quarter, there was also a bike auction at the Bike Barn where students could get really cool bikes.
During the tour, I was wishing I had a bike with me then -- the campus was so huge! There was also a stationary bike near the campus bookstore which a person could sit on and pedal while powering their computer at the same time. Neat, isn't it?
I walked back to the visitor center for an admissions presentation, and then stopped by the quad to eat lunch -- wrapping up my first college visit. What a trip! UC Davis turned out to be much nicer than I had imagined, but perhaps first college visits are better than you imagine them to be!
P.S. Don't forget to check out this video tour: