A Geographer’s Journey to Berkeley

By Peter Rowan (University of California Berkeley)

And suddenly I’m here. UC Berkeley, a global centre of academia; a place of sun, sea and hippy movements; and right next to the beautiful San Francisco. It hardly seemed real this evening as I ate pizza and gazed over Berkeley’s rooftops toward a misty Golden Gate Bridge, framed by a fiery pacific sunset. But here I am.


Sunset over Berkeley

The time leading up to flight day was rather surreal. I have travelled before, I have worked in in India and Colombia and backpacked around Europe, but this time it’s very different. I am here for much longer, an entire year! And this time I am part of a University community, with academic responsibilities in one of the best (and therefore most challenging) universities in the world. Suffice to say I had a good few butterflies in my belly, and after being left dog-tired after an internship at the European Parliament, it was like walking around in a day dream. But before I knew it I was saying long goodbyes to family and jumping on that 12 hour flight.

Ready to Go!

Ready to Go!

I really love flights, its that limbo, in-between time where one can make the transition from one life to the next. This one was stunning, and really sparked my Geographer’s imagination. I enjoyed panoramic views of Scotland and its Hebrides about two hours before we crossed the Greenland ice sheet. It started with clusters of enormous glaciers, which were soon dwarfed by the gigantic mountain ranges torn apart by cracked glaciers. Yet soon enough all of that was swallowed by the great ice sheet, so bright that I had to close the window shutter. When I reopened it three hours later I was greeted by the endless empty wilderness of the Canadian Northern Territories, potted with turquoise lakes. I gazed out of the window as the Rockies rose up with their snow-capped volcanoes, and just as we crossed into California I spotted forest fires raging on the mountains below. Then soon enough we were descending, and I felt ready to take on the US.

Volcanoe CanadaGreenland 1

Volcanoes, Canadian planes and Greenland

Very jet lagged, I took a taxi through San Francisco and over the bay to Berkeley. It is absolutely gorgeous here. Its sunny, really sunny with a mixture of the Modernistic-Spanish Colonial type architecture and a pinewood landscape that makes it feel like a cooler version of Italy. Berkeley has one very cool vibe going on, with guys shooting round on skateboards, turkeys, squirrels and deer wandering round campus, lots of green spaces to chill out in, a row of cafes of very diverse cuisine and of course Jack Kerouac’s old Jazz and Rock haunts just across the bay. And the people? Well they literally bounce with positivity… I have a funny feeling I’m going to love it here.

Though still jet lagged, I am very excited now. I move into my dorms tomorrow, I have my orientation in two days and much more importantly I have my (American) football season pass. It all kicks off in three day’s time with sports and student fairs, Fraternity rushes and classes in a week’s time. I’m planning on going all-out on this US college thing, and I will keep you posted!


A view of San Francisco and the very shady Alcatraz


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