After slapping the snooze button one too many times, I’ve finally woken up. I’ve started to see what this beautifully eccentric town and our university have to offer. And not a moment too soon.

At the beginning of my sophomore year, I joined the school newspaper and my eyes quickly opened to so many faces and voices that I was too ignorant, or simply asleep, to see or hear before. It forced me to talk not just to professors and TAs, but to athletes, locals, dining hall workers, and so many others who together form the pulse of this place. It made me keep my head up so I wouldn’t miss the faces in the crowd, all with their own stories to tell. It made me walk to class without earphones so I could hear the redwood trees swaying and the snippets of conversations on everything from the effects of pesticides on farming communities to Mrs. Dalloway’s innermost struggles. It made me open my eyes to my surroundings so I wouldn’t miss the distinctive Santa Cruz sunsets while riding the bus home.

I encourage you to get caught up in the intricacies of all that surrounds you at UCSC, but don’t forget that there’s more outside our bubble.

Remember, for example, that this summer we came together in Beijing to cheer for our athletes who reminded us to take pride in this country – one that in recent years has become harder to cheer for. Once the Games were over, our focus shifted back to the coming election, which will undoubtedly be one of the most significant in our nation’s history, defining our generation and forcing us to think more critically about our future.

Across the state, fires burned through homes at the same time that service workers at all 10 University of California campuses started sparks of their own, striking for higher wages and slowing the daily functions of each campus to a near-standstill. While we Slugs were on summer vacation, the university and the city of Santa Cruz decided to proceed with the Long Range Development Plan, which had been under discussion for months and prompted students to rally in protest last year, some even living in trees to make their point clear.

Now we’re here at UCSC – some of us for the first time and some returning. Before we get caught up in classes, let’s take a moment to consider this as a time and a place that will be unlike anything we’ll experience again. When else will you run naked in the rain and not get arrested? Where else can you climb a redwood overlooking the bay and then, a 10-minute bike ride later, arrive at one of the world’s greatest surf spots? Take advantage of the fact that this university offers a class that will teach you how to ride those waves. Talk to the people who serve you food in the dining halls; they might be the most significant conversations you’ll have here. Watch a volleyball match with 200 other Slugs cheering for a game-winning kill. Go howl at the full moon once a month in a drum circle behind Colleges 9/10. Here, as UCSC students, we can do these things and more. The only thing that can keep you from them is you.

Find a way to plug into the community. Read the paper, watch the news, do something that allows you to paint your own picture of this stunning place. Get out and take it all in before your time here is up, because it goes by fast. Wake up and welcome to Santa Cruz – now go see why so many of us decided to come here, and why after four years, we find it so difficult to leave.

Samantha Thompson
Editor in Chief