Santa Clara University is nicknamed “Claradise” for a reason: its California Mission-centered architecture, soaring palm trees, and sunsets take your breath away. But can an urban university keep up with rolling waves, grand mountains, or luscious forests? Probably not.
Growing up at the base of the Santa Teresa Hills has influenced my life more than I’d like to admit. Moving the short distance from South San Jose to be closer to SCU makes visiting the hills more of a task - essentially removing my personal mountaintop. This small move may not resonate with most, but for those who have traded in their oasis for Claradise, this feeling hits close to home.
After conversing with students who grew up similarly, I have found that we share this same itch to get back to the outdoors. SCU’s campus is full of beautiful plants and sunshine most of the year, but when those Winter Quarter blues hit with the rain, it can get suffocating.
When you’re used to walking to the beach to catch a wave or hiking to a vistapoint, the concrete negates any aspect of nature. A student from Maui shares that she misses the West Maui [mountains] and Haleakala volcano she saw on the daily. Another student is an avid surfer and is tempted to drop her responsibilities when the pressure gets too much. I’m sure we’ve all been there around midterm season. I spent so many afternoons hiking in Santa Teresa Park with my dogs until sunset, but now I’ve only gone to the hills in times of great stress to feel at home again.
Before coming to college, the campus is a sight to be seen. The beach is a thirty-minute drive away through the Santa Cruz mountains, Tahoe is a few hours if you want snow, and trails go all throughout Santa Clara County. The only caveat is that you need a car to truly avail of these local wonders which is sometimes a challenge in and of itself.
Being away from your mountaintop is like moving away all over again. You’ve already said goodbye to your family and are in the full groove of college, but stress builds up and you don’t have your sanctuary any more. I didn’t know what to do my first year, but I knew I had to create a new one. Because of my time restraints and responsibilities on campus, driving twenty minutes to Santa Teresa Park is a huge chunk out of my day. Having been active all my life, my physical and mental health were affected by the distance and busy schedule. I tried going to the gym, but it had never been the same as the hills.
Trading paradise for Claradise has had its advantages. We appreciate the little things a lot more. Sunny days are a blessing, road trips are a must, and friends help you get through the rainy season. Temporarily losing our sanctuaries have made us appreciate them more than we ever had our whole lives, and that longing gets us out of campus to satisfy it.
So before committing to an urban campus, be sure to visit and do research on the area. Some good questions to consider are how far the beach/mountain/lake/park is from campus, how practical it is to get there, how being away from home and nature can affect your emotional wellbeing, and how nature’s role has influenced your life.
To supplement that feeling and to get back to nature, check out these Bay Area hideaways!