My major is American Studies at the University of Toronto, and so it did not make much sense to go anywhere else on exchange other than the United States. I had this belief that being in the United States would make American studies different and more official. However I learned it did not matter if I was in Berkeley or in Toronto we used that same readings, maps and key figures and scholars. While in Berkeley I was reinstated with patriotism towards Canada and with pride for the Centre for the Study of the United States (CSUS) at the University of Toronto.
My American studies course at Berkeley was a three-unit course taught by three different professors over three weeks. They described it as a variety show. The course were linked together through the topic of race and racial representation in the arts (film, visual culture and humor). In the discussion seminar for the course the professors showed a map of racial population distribution. They asked if anyone knew what city it was. In a room filled with over thirty American students I was the only one who could identify and name the city as Los Angeles. This shocked the whole room, but gave me the confidence in my American Studies knowledge.
Two of the professors at Cal did their Ph.D. with one of my professor’s who is a former director of the CSUS. Their areas of study and teaching styles were similar. For the course on Race and Film, I had to watch three films; one was Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. I saw the film at the Castro Theater. This was a field trip I created for myself, as I had wanted to see a movie at the Castro Theater all summer. It fully enhanced the movie starting with the organ that played before the film started with New York themed music. My film professor taught me a great lesson about movies; they were not made to be watched alone on a small screen, but to be experienced in a group to experience the emotions of the characters together. This will push me towards seeing movies in the theater and not just watching them but experiencing them.
The last three weeks in Berkeley flew by and each day my Bay Area bucket list got shorter. With my days filled with classes I had to start doing fun things before 9 am and after 5 pm. I started swimming in Hearst pool before the sun rose it was a great way to wake up and spend time with my friend Ben. Trips into San Francisco became more frequent and action pack. We went to Bi-Rite for ice, burritos at 24th and Mission, mojito iced coffee at Philz Coffee, The Walt Disney Museum and a return trip to Off the Grid for Friday night dinner. One Saturday as a group we went to Dolores park to see the movie Clueless, the whole park was filled with people and I found it more fun to people watch than watch the actors in the movies.
To celebrate a new friendship and a fabulous summer, Ben planned a celebratory dinner at the Cheese Cake Factory. After the last Monday class we took the 5:55 BART into San Francisco. Steph was already in the city and as we got off BART at Powell street we received a text saying she had a table and to run over. I said to Ben it would be fun to sit outside, as the balcony is on the 8th floor and overlooks Union Square. In San Francisco the weather is always colder than the East Bay, but with outdoor heaters we were able to enjoy the sunset, food and company. It was a running joke that I was the only person who knew how to make it back on BART. Over the six weeks I would always receive text messages asking how to get place and now that I am home, Ben still sends me BART updates and questions.
The second last night in Berkeley there was one remaining item on my list. Hiking the Big C, which is an actual C for Cal up in the hills. We hiked up to view the bay from sunset. It was an amazing view of the whole bay and just by luck it was clear enough to see the Golden Gate Bridge. It was the perfect picture opportunity and we had just enough light.
I ended my time in Berkeley with a concert at the Greek Theater. I bought the tickets months before to see Sara Bareilles. It was the end of her tour and there is nothing better than live music outdoors. My friend Sarah from my education class came with me together we sang, danced and laughed to new and beloved older songs. In preparation for the concert I listened to a lot of Sara Bareilles music during my six-week exchange and it became my soundtrack to the exchange and summer. Now when I hear her music I will always think of Berkeley and this wonderful summer and all the adventures I went on.