By: Zane Four
It takes a little less than two hours to drive to Santa Cruz from Berkeley. One need only take Interstate 880 to California Highway 17. Now, add about twenty minutes and a left on Empire Grade immediately after exiting the freeway and you will arrive in Bonny Doon, just like I did a few weeks ago. Littered with Coast Redwoods, the journey up Empire Grade and deeper into the Doon is nothing less than therapeutic. Driving, walking, or biking will get you there, but the beauty of the trip lies in its surroundings. On a clear day, the sun blankets swarms of redwoods and from one’s vantage point on the highway, the dense forest appears as if it never ends.
Yet, the entire area is less than seventeen miles and home to a little less than 2,700 residents. You can even hike from Bonny Doon to UC Santa Cruz, a feat that a friend of mine, who lives in Bonny Doon and commutes to UCSC on a daily basis, has accomplished only once. On my recent trip, I stayed with this friend and was personally introduced to the area, which is home to redwood and chaparral forests, as well as grasslands that appear just before the coast. The diversity within Bonny Doon’s ecosystem is also representative of the greater Santa Cruz area and the South Bay in general. A trip to Santa Cruz as a whole guarantees a naturalist minded traveler lush, dense, and woody forests alongside a group of beaches with world famous resumes. The ability to juggle a day between two entirely different locales, situated mere miles apart, is as convenient as it is exhilarating.
Santa Cruz, often overshadowed by Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco, is an integral part of northern California’s magic and a welcome alternative to the dominant cityscapes that often define the bay. UC Santa Cruz itself is like a national park and a day spent schooling doubles as a day of exploration. And this is just one of the many reasons why an education at UCSC is so unique. Luckily enough, UC Berkeley students can experience life as a student in Santa Cruz as well. Through the little known Intercampus Visitor Program, an undergraduate with clear academic reasons can spend a quarter at any of the other UC campuses. While study abroad programs boast similar tuition prices, the cost of airfare and a life overseas can restrict enrollment. In addition, for some parents, the idea of simply spending a quarter in another part of California is much more palpable than one in France or Japan.
Another friend of mine, studying philosophy at UCLA, participated in the program and spent what he describes as a “life changing quarter” at UCSC. While I was personally inspired to discuss Santa Cruz in light of my recent travels, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Diego also offer wonderful cities in which to study and any of them would provide an unforgettable quarter to a Berkeley student unable to go abroad, but yearning for new surroundings.
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