Spending a Day at UC Merced

Here are my (a high schooler’s) thoughts
Spending a Day at UC Merced

The other day, my sister was telling me about her classes at UC Merced, and once she was done, she said, “Man, I wish you could be there.”

And I said, “Yeah, I should come with you one day.”

“But you’ve got school whenever I’ve got school,” she sighed.

The angels began to sing in my ears as I profusely thanked Enochs administration for making the day after Halloween a teacher work day. Sure, all my teachers grumbled about having to show up still when they were the ones campaigning for a day off, but I could visit campus on Wednesday! We made a plan, and Wednesday morning, instead of sleeping in until whenever sleeping felt uncomfortable for me, I got myself out of bed at 8:00 am, piled into the car with my sister, and we drove the 55 minute drive to UC Merced.

We got there only to realize my sister’s calculus lecture had been canceled. Amidst accusations that I was a bad omen, my sister showed me around the campus for around half an hour. I learned that the best residence hall was Glacier, that El Portal was the yellow one, Granite was my favorite, and if any others existed I forgot them.

She also took me to a little office where the Associated Student Body of UC Merced was hosting their weekly Wednesday Wake-Up, which is where they provide free coffee/hot cocoa and a donut to any student that walks in and scans their ID card. This is actually incredibly considerate of the students that organized this whole thing, because Wednesday is the one day you need a little mood boost to get you through the other half of the week. My sister split a glazed donut with me and let me sip her little hot-chocolate-mocha concoction that she thought was super clever. Regardless, it was a sweet start to our day.

I saw the New Beginnings sculpture, which I thought was adorable. Apparently, new students walk through it one way during orientation, and the other way once they graduate.

I kind of wanted to walk through it to become an honorary student at UC Merced, but I was too busy obsessing over how cool the ‘M’ landmark was. It was literally just a white outline of the letter ‘M’, and if you stood in front of it, it seemed to align perfectly with itself and looked unreal.

When walking to my sister’s chemistry lecture, I saw the Scholars Lane Bobcat, and, apparently, he’s referred to as Boomer. I thought his whiskers were pretty sick, and appreciated how he was hidden into the foliage along the walkway that most students took.

The chemistry lecture took place in an auditorium, of course, but I definitely wasn’t used to sitting in an auditorium for any reason other than some major award ceremony or an assembly. I found it hard to focus on what the professor was teaching, and kept getting distracted by the sheer amount of people, or maybe it was just the fact that my sister’s friends kept furiously whisper-teaching each other how to balance chemical equations.

After that, we walked to the library, which, on the first floor, had a built-in place called The Lantern Café. The embarrassing thing was, I thought the first floor of the library was the cafeteria, because it was super loud, there was food, and it was pretty opened up. I was later told that the second, third, and fourth floors get progressively quieter and more intense as people wish for more and more silence, which made sense to me. I spent an hour at The Lantern Café, where I helped my sister’s friend with his precalc homework, and, in return, I got to order myself a mango lemonade (it was incredible).

Next, we needed to walk to biology lecture. I loved the walk to the ACS building (Arts and Computational Sciences), because I got to see the gorgeous fountain that my sister said changed colors at night, as well as the UCM sculpture that showcased UC Merced’s unique color scheme, a sort of Vegas Gold and Royal Blue combination that stands apart from the other UCs.

I’m pretty sure my favorite part of UC Merced was the biology auditorium. Contrary to the cramped nature of what the chemistry lecture was in, this auditorium was comprised of layer upon layers of desks and spring-powered seats. I don’t know how to explain those chairs, they were so cool. You could scoot away from the desk and swivel your chair around, but once you let go, they’d gently turn back around and return you back to your desk.

I had fun with that for quite a while.

The biology lecture was alright, it really reminded me of my days back in AP Biology, but, again, it was pretty hard focusing when my sister’s business major friend was trying to convince me to sell them my $8 Rubik’s cube for $20. I mean, I ended up doing it, so I guess they knew their stuff.

Returning from biology lecture, we hung out in the not-so-quiet library again, and I then got to see the ‘Pav’, short for Pavilion. Here was where students could get food between classes, or just hang out in the outdoor seating that even had a cool little metal umbrella attached to the benches. We ended up scanning a friend’s Student ID card (they call it a CatCard) to enter the Pav, which allowed us to essentially get whatever we wanted from inside the cafeteria for a fixed price. That day, they were serving white-sauce pasta with red pepper flakes, and while I didn’t eat it, I’ll admit, it looked and smelled pretty good. I got to taste the famous white-chocolate macadamia nut cookies my sister is always raving about, and while this isn’t specific to the trip itself, I tried Dr. Pepper for the first time. I think I see the appeal, but I don’t really understand how it’s worth teenagers fighting each other to the death over.

Regardless, I really enjoyed the Pav. It continues the overall trend of food improving the higher you get in your educational journey, because I found myself scoffing at Enochs’ potato wedges and persimmons just a little bit more than before.

After lunch, I was walked back to (surprise!) the library and essentially got dropped off because my sister needed to attend her chemistry discussion and, according to her, there were little to no extra seats for me. Which, honestly, worked for me, because if they tried to rope me into a chemistry discussion, all I would do is slowly slide under my desk and sit there for a little while. That being said, I worked in the library for around an hour and felt super mature about it. Here I was, amongst college students, working silently and diligently just like the rest of them.

It didn’t matter that I was actually just working on annotating an English poetry packet due the next day, what mattered was I was living the college experience, and I loved it. When my sister got back with her friends to pick me up and drive back home, I felt I didn’t want to leave. My heart sank as I realized that I would have to go to high school the next day. Boring old high school, with the irritating bells, cliques, and average-tasting food, I wanted none of it.

But there was no use wallowing in self-pity. Visiting that college instilled another kind of motivation in me to work harder and get myself somewhere. It’s a lot easier to work towards your goals if you can see it. There’s a slim chance I’ll end up actually going to UC Merced, but I sure did enjoy my time there.

If you’re ready to get out of high school and soar into the quasi-adult heaven that is college, make the most out of the little time you have left in secondary education, because the end result is so very worth it.

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  • M

    Marie SimonDec 10, 2023 at 12:45 am

    Great writing. Pretty good in elaboration of the experience at UC Merced as a guest

  • S

    Samah KhanNov 9, 2023 at 2:29 pm

    wow the author’s sister sounds like such a great sibling!