My final night in room 624 of Birnkrant was a somber one. As this was the evening following the final day of exams, my roommate, Ravi Bhatt, had already moved out, beating the I-5 traffic on his drive back to Irvine. My mother had flown to Los Angeles to help me pack up my things and place them in storage. For the most part, we sat there in silence, slowly removing pictures from the cork wall above my bed, placing folded t-shirts into cardboard boxes, and rifling through lecture notes from my freshmen classes, deciding what to keep and what to throw away. And as I removed the last picture from my wall, I stepped back and realized the room was no longer my own. Birnkrant 624 no longer contained any trace of my existence, despite being the perfect home for the most formative nine months of my college experience. And then I wept; why did I have to leave?
Let me provide some context before we dive too deep into the nitty gritty emotional details. I lived in Birnkrant Residential College my freshman year, an eight-story dormitory nestled in the northeast corner of campus, along with New and North Residential Colleges. There were two elevators that serviced the building; one for the odd floor, one for the even floor. Being on the sixth floor, I would take the even elevator, which, upon reaching the sixth floor, would open to the “fishbowl”. Affectionately called the fishbowl due to its floor-to-ceiling glass walls, the sixth floor study room divided the girls’ wing (to the left off the elevator) from the guys’ wing (to the right). After waving hi to those brave souls studying the fishbowl, I would hook a right into the guys’ wing. Our RA Luke Griffin, a senior majoring in biomedical engineering, occupied the first room on the right. After Luke’s room, the hallway opened up to twenty double-occupancy rooms, ten on each side of the hallway, for a total of 40 BK 6 gentlemen. At hallway’s end was the communal bathrooms. The girls’ wing, and Birnkrant’s other six residence floors, were set up similarly. For the most part, Birnkrant was your traditional college dormitory.
But what made Birnkrant special was the people. Walking down the halls after a long day of class, nearly all the doors would be open, their occupants welcoming. The sound of Eunghee practicing cello would drift down from the end of the hallway. Mike would be sitting at his desk, playing Sporkle, a trivia game, with Ravi anxiously shouting answers behind him. Peeking into Calvin’s room, I would find Calvin hunched over an architecture model, meticulously cutting cardstock for his latest model.
What I have attempted to illustrate here is the academic diversity that Birnkrant provided me. At any given time, I could walk down the hall, enter a room, and have an entertaining conversation about a fascinating topic that I knew absolutely nothing about. I was the resident rocket scientist and space nerd; Ravi had an invested interested in investment banking and finance. Dylan loved psychology; Benji economics. Ian and Mike, roommates, were also both engineers: chemical and computer science, respectively. Eunghee studied classical performance, while Calvin was an architecture major. Not living with all engineers made life interesting. Conversation was varied, and I learned something new every day.
Perhaps my favorite memory was the web series Birnkrant sixth floor created. Dubbed The Critics, the web series spanned three episodes, during which Corey, the series’ director and co-lead, and Austin, co-lead, would humorously satirize the clichés of college: parties, class, dormitory life, etc. Luckily for me and the guys of BK 6, Corey and Austin needed extras, so I had the chance to act in the third episode of The Critics, “Sickly”. I played sick student two and the voice of G-d, and I loved every second of it, even if I won’t be receiving an OSCAR any time soon. I don’t think I would have had this experience elsewhere; Birnkrant 6th floor and its residents were truly special.
So, when that final night came around, I was not ready to leave Birnkrant’s room 624. Even today, as I look toward graduation, I still look fondly upon those late nights on the sixth floor, talking about life, politics, sports – anything that came to mind. And I surely wouldn’t mind going back in time for a day, a week, just to sit one more time in the fishbowl, surrounded by my friends, with a big smile on my face, knowing with absolute certainty that the world was my oyster.