By Kayla Carroll
Special to The Alpine Mountaineer
In a “normal” year, Rim’s junior AVID class goes on a five-day trip up the coast to visit several universities to help create a list of schools they will apply to. Because last year’s trip was canceled due to COVID-19, this year’s trip included both the junior and senior AVID classes.
All 37 students and adult supervisors were required to take a rapid COVID-19 test to make sure everyone was negative before boarding the bus, Monday morning, Sept. 20.
The first college we visited was California State University (CSU) Channel Islands, which was the only college where we had an official tour. Due to the pandemic, not many universities were doing in-person tours.
Channel Islands was surrounded by a field of agricultural lands and then mountains with the feel of the ocean air. All of the buildings were mission-style since it was built out of an old mission and any new buildings were made to look like the old. The only modern building was the library.
CSU Channel Islands was not a favorite among the students. Most did not like where it was located nor the small class sizes. The entire campus felt the same and, although you could feel and smell the ocean, you could not see it since the circling mountain range was in the way. It had redeeming qualities in its programs, such as nursing, but we as students agreed the campus was not a selling point.
The next college we saw that day was University of California (UC) Santa Barbara, where a Rim graduate gave us a tour. There were cliffside views of the ocean from the campus and it was crowded with students, being much larger than the campus we had just come from. The tour guide was friendly and gave gold stars to anyone who could answer trivia questions about the school. We had to watch out for bikes around the campus because that is the main form of transportation around big campuses.
We ended the tour at a self-sustaining pond full of turtles, koi fish and tadpoles, which is a student-made project about self-sustaining habitats. Many students loved the campus and the change in scenery as opposed to our mountains. The ocean and beach were big selling points at every college that had them.
We then drove to San Luis Obispo where we stayed at a nice hotel with our chosen roommates. We were allowed to explore the area and choose a place to eat on our own with a curfew of 10 p.m.
The next day, Tuesday, we visited Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (SLO), the tour guide also being a former student of Rim. SLO had a nice campus with a suburban feel. It had modern buildings and the Greek life dorms, which were just outside the campus, looked like a nice neighborhood block. The tour guide informed us that getting to know professors at SLO usually leads to great letters of recommendations and the ability to network, which is an extremely handy tool for entering the workforce after college. Overall, students took a liking to the campus. I, personally, loved the campus and will be applying there.
UC Santa Cruz was next on the list. We were again guided by a previous Rim student who had only physically attended the college for a short amount of time because of the pandemic. The one word I would use to describe UC Santa Cruz is hiking. The entire campus feels like home as we were surrounded by forest and hills we had to hike up. We had to speed walk to make good time and stick to the itinerary. Students, myself included, were very out of breath and sore by the end of the tour. Mountain biking is a large part of campus life.
Despite the physical labor it takes to get to class and the uncanny likeness to home, the campus is very interesting. We came across wild turkeys and crossed bridges over rivers and streams. Their mascot is a banana slug, which was a strong, adorable selling point for some people. The campus is beautiful, but some students did not like how much it reminded them of home and that is also why some students loved the campus. Students from Rim who attend UC Santa Cruz are guaranteed to not gain the Freshman 15 or feel homesick.
CSU Monterey Bay was a very quick self-guided tour. We were there long enough to take in the very small campus, the view of the ocean, and the quietness of the morning. Students described the campus as a step up from CSU Channel Islands. It felt like touring a rich high school. The marine biology major is its strongest pull since it is directly on the ocean.
Downtown Monterey, which we were allowed to explore until 9 p.m., was a fun experience. My group ate at a local Mexican restaurant that overlooked the ocean and then went to touch the ocean water on the beach since our friend had never even seen the ocean before this trip. We laughed there for a while before exploring the shops on the strip and then heading back to the bus so that we could go back to the hotel.
Wednesday started with another self-guided tour of San Jose State. This campus was the most city-like. It was clean and students who want to live in the city particularly loved this campus and school.
Next up that day was Cal State East Bay where we did a quick self-guided tour. It was not that remarkable. The views were pretty, but there was not much that was notable. We did, however, take our AVID five-day trip photo in front of and inside the East Bay sign as a class.
We arrived in Davis where we explored the downtown area and all of the little shops and food places it had to offer. There wasn’t much to do around the hotel, but there was a Target. Students went and bought food, drinks, accessories, stuff to make slime and fudge, and everything else we could think of to do in a hotel room. Students who didn’t go to Target went to the outdoor pool with the teachers. Some students made pasta, others made fudge and, in the morning, breakfast burritos were given out by the same students who made the pasta.
Thursday at UC Davis, as guided by a previous Rim student, was hot. The days got hotter and hotter as the week went on. I would describe UC Davis as the type of college you would imagine in movies and TV shows. It is big and has a decent mixture of vegetation and city. The lakes and ponds were beautiful and we got to pet cows along the way. Students who want the city life, but would miss the trees, really liked this school.
At Sacramento State we were given a tour by another former Rim student. The campus is pretty with lots of trees, but most of the information I gathered from the tour was that it was expensive to live there, on campus or not. I personally loved the LGBTQ+ Pride room they had next to the cases of artwork supporting women and LGBTQ+ communities. Students who love the city loved this campus.
We arrived in Merced for our final hotel room. Pizza was ordered for everyone to eat in their rooms. There wasn’t anything to do around the hotel this time, but we were able to swim and enjoy the gym for a few hours until it was curfew. Some students even ordered GrubHub for their dinner.
Friday was the last day of our trip. The tour through UC Merced was self-guided. It is a moderately sized, modern campus with solar panels and in the middle of nowhere. It is completely surrounded by fields. The campus is fairly new and it is looking to expand out onto all of that land. It is also close to Yosemite. It is a very small campus and quite quiet, but we also were there about 8 in the morning, before the students would be awake. I liked the quietness and moderate size of the school and it will be one of the ones that I apply to.
Fresno State was small and unremarkable, but its sports teams have won Olympic medals. They had very good Chinese food. From Fresno State, we headed back all the way to Rim with only one stop for gas and Wendy’s.
Prior to the trip, students had lists of colleges they were going to apply to. It is safe to say that every one of those lists were changed in some way.
Students bought memorabilia from the schools they liked the most, like T-shirts and sweatshirts. I, myself, bought a pin from every school we went to.
Before the trip, college discussion was just facts, numbers, variables and years away. Now, it’s a close, feasible reality, and I feel ready for it.
Kayla Carroll is a senior at Rim of the World High School.