UCLA Wasn't My Dream School, But It Is Now

While I now realize how incredibly lucky I am to be attending the University of California Los Angeles, a school that receives tens of thousands of applicants per year, there was once a time where I wasn’t so excited about staying so close to home.  

After living in the greater Los Angeles are my entire life and hearing the story about how my parents met here, at UCLA, I didn’t want to feel committed to spending the rest of my life here in Los Angeles.  Even southern California just started to seem dull in comparison to the unknown. I knew I wanted a change, to get away from the small bubble of the world that I grew up in and see someplace new.

So, when it came time to choose what schools I would apply to, the further away the school, the more desirable it seemed.  For some reason, in high school, there was this slight impression that lurked underneath college decisions: that if you went further away, the east coast or internationally, you were somehow above those who stayed right here in sunny southern California.  I pictured myself in the cold with a new winter coat and tall boots walking around a big East Coast city. The hustle and the bustle and the lights and the nightlife seemed to be exactly what I wanted.

However, I applied to mostly in-state schools.  I talked to my parents, who preferred I stay closer to home, and I kept the UC’s that I had applied to in the back of my mind.  While I couldn’t deny the benefits of in-state prices and the high quality of education that attracts students from around not only the country but the world, I was still looking to leave Los Angeles.  Going to a college with a less than two hour drive home left me not exactly in the best of moods.

My senior year in high school, as college acceptances came out and classes were filled with people comparing what seems like their entire futures with each other, I still didn’t know where I wanted to go.  I didn’t have a dream school when I was applying. By my thoughts, reading those acceptance and rejection letters would tell me where I really wanted to go.

And in some ways they did.  They told me I was sad to have been rejected by schools that weren’t right for me.  They told me I was not the most excited for some of the schools that accepted me.

Almost exactly one year ago, I came here to visit.  I came here for UCLA’s admit weekend and I found a community that I didn’t know existed here.  In the blazing heat, I walked up Janss’ Steps, I toured Hedrick Hall and Hedrick Summit (and I told myself that I would not ever want to live that far up the hill), I ate a salad from the Student Union for lunch, and I listened as passionate students told me why they love being here, why I would love being here.  

For two days, I walked the campus that I now call home.  On Saturday, I learned about the campus. I learned about the community, about the friendships I could make here, about the thousands of clubs I could join.  On Sunday, I came here to learn about the engineering organizations that UCLA has to offer. And honestly, UCLA Engineering is an amazing program. But it wasn’t the showing of all the competitive projects and programs I could join that made me want to come here.  It was Bruin Day. It was basking in the sunshine and watching the festivities. It was sweating in Hedrick Hall and listening to students talk about their favorite parts of UCLA. It was the presentations about the communities you could join here and the smiles that sat on every face on campus.  It was the sounds of the campus called to life on a Saturday. It was Bruin Day that made UCLA feel like home.

Right now, I am sitting by the Inverted Fountain deep in the heart of south campus.  It’s peaceful and pretty and at night I like to see the lights beneath the water. I like to remember the Myths and Legends Tour that my NSA took me on during summer orientation.  I like to remember the connections I made here around this fountain during Panhellenic Formal Recruitment and I like to remember that this is where I feel at home.

I like that here I can study outside.  I love that here the weather is as happy as it always is in sunny southern California.  While I once wished that I would leave the small bubble that I grew up in, I am honestly not sure how happy I would be anywhere else.  For those who know me, I hate wearing pants. I don’t like the cold and the rain makes me sad. But being here, I don’t have to deal with the cold or the rain or the horrible times when pants are just absolutely necessary.  

UCLA has so many scenic, beautiful places to sit down, to enjoy, to soak in.  I love that any time of day, any day of the week you can walk onto campus and feel the hustle and the bustle.  I love that there are always people there to support you, to help you, to push you. The sculpture garden in north campus is perfect and beautiful for studying, and the fields around campus are often full of students picnicking and studying outside.  The sun has finally come out after a very long rainy season for southern California, and it feels great to be wearing shorts again. There are middle and elementary schoolers always here to tour, wearing UCLA class of 2035 and taking in what could be their future.

It is seeing these students, the ones enchanted by my amazing school that makes me wish I had never taken coming here for granted.  I’ve fallen in love with the campus and after months of walking down Bruin walk everyday, you’d think I’d be tired of the students flyering and the walks uphill but I’m still fascinated by the little wonders on campus.

I love that campus is surrounded by Westwood and that a short walk will take you to countless restaurants, shops and old-fashioned movie theaters.  I love the cute coffee and tea places that are great for photos and studying. I love all the plants and the beauty of our school. When you picture a college, a university, you picture UCLA, and it doesn’t hurt that our school really has been used to represent so many schools around the country.  

Don’t get me wrong, going to such a large school can be intimidating at times, but joining some of the thousands of organizations helped me find people that are passionate about the same things as me.  

Each day, I love UCLA a little bit more.  I am constantly reminded of all the opportunities that I have right at my fingertips simply because I am here.  As more time goes by, i learn more and more about things that I wish I had known before making my college decision.  Like how the sun does shine here more often than not and that the weather truly is a blessing. I love how being in Los Angeles means there are literally hundreds of different places you can go to eat, to explore all just a short drive away.

For a lot of in-state students, I know that it can sometimes be easy to forget about UCLA.  While is is only driving-distance away, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing and being closer to home doesn’t mean going home every weekend if you don’t want to.  I love that here we are proud to be Bruins and that here on any given day, you’ll see hundreds of students sporting their blue and gold. Sure, moving out of Los Angeles is still the dream, but I have so much time for that.  And who says I can’t leave Los Angeles for a vacation?

UCLA wasn’t always my dream school, but it is now.  And I have to say that being a Bruin is definitely all it’s cracked up to be.