Ian Pike noon, Dec. 8
Sometime in the school years of 1993 and 1994, UCSD's Oceanview Terrace got an unofficial mascot.
One of the workers there, a student in his junior year of undergraduate school, was about to become a father. As you can imagine, a child is a novel thing for a group of friends so young. Everyone took interest, and bets were placed on the child's birthdate and weight. A healthy boy was born, clocking in at eight pounds, seven ounces. The father put a picture of him on his register, and everyone agreed - the brown, rotund buddha should become the mascot of the eatery. The baby stayed on the register until his father graduated undergraduate school in 1994.
I'm that baby.
And I'm going home, so to say. This year, I graduated from high school, and was accepted into UCSD. I'll be starting in September.
It has been a long road. When I told my family about my acceptance into UCSD, one of my cousins remarked, "You've been wanting to go there ever since you knew what college was."
I laughed, because I had never thought of it that way. I remembered wanting to go to UCSD for a long time, but I think that statement put into perspective just how long.
Interestingly enough, I've always wanted to go to UCSD not just because my dad went there, but mostly because it has always been in my mind. You see, my family has more or less stayed in San Diego, and for as long back as I remember, we would sometimes take trips to UCSD. Soon, all the childhood excitement of an adventure to somewhere far was mixed in with the campus of UCSD. Sometimes we would eat at Oceanview. We would walk around the campus, run up and down the hills (which seemed so much bigger back then) and through the forests - how I loved those forests. I remember how the Sun God always looked so bright and garish.
Going through elementary school and middle school, I really didn't think all that much about how I was going to get into UCSD. It was already in my mind that I was going there.
But going into high school, it really settled in that I needed to start working towards my goal. Of course I panicked a bit. More like a lot. But in any case, the first step was to decide a major.
Coming into high school, I loved physics. Going through my physics class, I reached a conclusion - I really liked physics.
So, physics it was. UCSD is an excellent school for physics, so good so far.
During my sophomore year, Meyer Hall had a re-opening open house. There would be demonstrations from all the different physics labs. There was also free food. Needless to say, I jumped at this chance.
The food was great. The physics demonstrations were good, too. Here's what happened though: through a stroke of luck, I got an internship with the Maples Lab. This was wholly unexpected, and so, so appreciated.
I worked there for about three years, all the way 'til the end of high school. That was an experience like no other. The lab was very professional, yet not in a boring sort of way. I worked on so many wondrous things, under excellent professors. It's something I won't forget.
Part of the fun of interning though was that it forced me to go to UCSD every week. I ended up exploring parts of UCSD I hadn't before, eating in every eatery I found, really just getting a feel for the campus.
I started off close to Meyer Hall, eating at Thai Time and Revell's cafeteria. At Thai Time, drunken noodles followed by chocolate soft serve made for an interesting combo, and the cafeteria, well... let's just say that was the first time I had gone to a right and proper cafeteria (my high school didn't have one). The fact that you could just pile whatever you wanted on your plate appealed to me, and I went a little more than crazy with the selections on some days.
Then I ventured further, going to the Price Center, which is the only place I know of that has a Panda Express that serves brown rice. I tried Indian food there for the first time in my life, and it's something I don't regret trying! I also tried boba for the first time at the Tapioca Express... let's just say I frequent Tap Ex quite often now.
I went to the Giesel Library, went to the top floor, and picked an aisle at random. I picked up an unmarked book that caught my eye, and opened it to find:
THE ROMAN EMPIRE
I smiled like an idiot. Besides physics and science, military history is my hobby. And, at random, I found an aisle tailored to me - books on Rommel and the desert war, books by Basil Liddell-Hart, books on the Romans and their conquests, books on strategy and tactics.
And I ventured further, going to my future college, Roosevelt, eating at the cafeteria there (I haven't found an unsatisfactory cafeteria on the campus), and walking, then driving a little further to the beach.
I went to the bookstore a lot, buying beautiful stationary that had rough grains to it, and that smelled like fresh cut wood, as well as looking for good deals in general.
One day, I happened upon a hat. Not just a hat, but the hat. Like I said, I like military history, and I like military fashion. The hat was in dark military green, with dark leather trimming, a squarish cut on the cap, and had flaps that covered your ears and neck, sort of like a pilot's or tank crewman's helmet. The hat is still the best hat I've ever found.
Three years of going to fun and interesting work, then roaming a beautiful campus afterwards, and it was time to apply for college. I cannot explain the elation I felt upon opening UCSD's acceptance letter. But, you've probably all been there, so I won't bore you with my experience on that.
I went to Admit Day, mostly because I wasn't sure what major I should take. Working at a physics lab made my major change from physics to engineering, but what type? During the Jacobs School of Engineering presentation, my dad spoke of the head of Jacobs, Frieder Seible.
"Yeah, I remember him. He woke me up one time, when I fell asleep in his class."
I really did have history with the school.
It was a funny experience walking around during Admit Day. I looked at all of my prospective peers, and they all looked so... lost. Misplaced. Their eyes held both trepidation and wonder, as they nervously glanced at their maps and watched their clocks.
But I was in my element. After the engineering presentation, I got some Indian food and some strawberry tea from Tapioca Express.
It's all so comfortable now. The sudden and abrupt change from high school to college is a little less fearsome for me to face - while the classrooms are changing, my friends are disbanding and moving away, the classes are getting harder and more serious, I have one thing one my side. I'm going somewhere that is familiar.
If I'm hungry in the middle of studying for midterms, I know where to go. If I ever need respite, I know the top floor of Giesel holds books to soothe my mind. If I ever really need to clear my head, I can go to the beach.
I'm going someplace that has always been, for all of my life, a center of adventure and solace.
I don't know what to call it, other than home.