My Junior Year, Bay Area, College Road Trip

July 31, 2017

By Jasmine “Jazzy” Contile, who is entering her senior year at High Tech High International high school in San Diego. This blog shares how she approached the ultimate question for high school juniors: where do I want to apply to college? There’s just one way to find out: road trip!

  |  When I heard about the San Francisco or, as we called it, “Bay Area Trip” that my junior class of 100 students (give or take) would be embarking on, I was immediately ecstatic. Though I’ve lived in San Diego my entire life, I’d surprisingly never been to San Francisco. Instantly, a college went off in my head. Berkeley. I’ve been told I should attend UC Berkeley since I first told my family I wanted to go into law at a very young age. So I was definitely entering the trip with high hopes for that school in particular.

However, during the school year, another school stole my heart a little. A school all the way in Europe. England, to be exact. After meeting with representatives from the school, I fell in love with the idea of living in a different country. I haven’t traveled far or a lot, so the possibility of going as far as England had a ring to it. I couldn’t help but picture myself having tea every morning and taking the double decker buses everywhere. I’m not gonna lie; everything I’d seen and heard about this school gave the UCs a run for their money.

On the bright side, I knew if I liked the UC schools during this trip, or if they came anywhere close to my infatuation for this school in London, there was a good chance I’d have a tough time deciding if I were to be accepted into both schools. I told my family I’d keep my an open mind, pay attention, and not compare them. I said this, of course, but in the back of my head there was a constant reminder of London.

In April, we left for the college trip on a charter bus. Half the grade in one, the other half in the other. When we arrived that night after stopping at Cal Poly for a brief tour, I had a great time with three good girlfriends in the hotel room. We played games, talked, showered and got into bed as early for another early day.

My best friend Pearl and I goofing around at Cal Poly.
Nathan and I on the bus ride to San Francisco.

We got up the next morning and took off to St. Mary’s College for a tour. It was a beautiful campus, but I knew it was a little smaller than I’d like.

The church at St. Mary’s College.

Plus, I felt like the college I was most excited for was hanging over my head; Berkeley. Much to my surprise, my heartbeat skipped a little looking around at the campus. I immediately was drawn to the people; everyone seemed so nice, and the community was so diverse which was similar to my current school, High Tech High International (HTHI), which I greatly enjoy.

One of the large academic buildings on the UC Berkeley campus.

We walked to the cafeteria for lunch and the food was so good that my friends and I couldn’t help but go back for seconds and thirds. After that, with our stomachs full, we giddily went to the panel where HTHI alumni would answer whatever questions we had about the school. One of the girls on the panel, Santana, was in my advisory for the past three years and this was her freshman year at Berkeley. I trusted her opinion most since I knew we were similar in what we look for in a school, and she wouldn’t say she was happy somewhere if she wasn’t. I knew she would tell it like it is and be genuine about her experience so far.

So after getting the general run-down on the school, such as admissions, competitiveness, etc., the adults left the room to give us time to talk to our alumni in small groups. I sat with Santana and heard everything she had to say about the school. She told us how much she loved it, and said the city, people, campus, dorms, academics, and more were all exactly what she’d wanted.

London was no longer a thought in my mind for the rest of the trip.

After talking to Santana, someone’s opinion who I value, I felt more confident in this school and less concerned about others. It was a good reminder that no matter where I go, as long as I like it and do well, I’ll have a nice experience in college. It doesn’t matter how far or unique the school is, it’s about what you want, what suits your needs and financial situation, and if it’s close enough or far enough from home.

The rest of the day was even better because we got to go be “tourists,” which was exciting for me. Obviously, I wasn’t dressed in Hawaiian-print clothes with a fanny-pack, but I was taking pictures of everything. We started out the fun part of the day by going to the “all things Berkeley” store with t-shirts, hoodies, hats, and more. I impressed myself by finding $12 sweatpants with “Berkeley” written on the side of the leg. Then we got back on the bus and headed to the Golden Gate Bridge.

We drove over it at first, which was super cool (and busy). I filmed the entire thing through the window. My friends teased a little since I apparently looked like a kid having candy for the first time. But I couldn’t help it; I really liked the San Francisco area, and could 100% see myself living there. After that, we took pictures with the Golden Gate as our backdrop. The photos hardly even look real since the sky was so blue and clear. The bridge was so vibrant and bold. It’s one of those things you see in plenty of photos and think to yourself “that it’s been photoshopped twenty times over,” but it’s really not. It really is just like the best pictures of it.

The one and only Golden Gate Bridge.
My best friend, Pearl, and I in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.
HTHI’s dean, Fran, with our matching jackets. (She bought hers last year.)

After 30 minutes or so of perfecting our photo shoots, we headed to Fisherman’s Wharf for shopping and dinner, I went with some friends out to dinner at a restaurant called “Bubba Gump Shrimp Company.” The theme was actually inspired by the movie Forrest Gump, and our waitress even surveyed us on quotes, characters, and scenes in the movie. The whole place was fun and energetic, and we were lucky enough to be seated near a window overlooking the water. Once dinner was over, I did a little souvenir shopping for my family and purchased a San Francisco letterman’s jacket for myself.

Bubba Gump’s is on Pier 39 in San Francisco.
Refreshing (nonalcoholic) drinks at Bubba Gump’s.

When we got back to the hotel, we swam most of the night since the next morning would be our last look at one more university, UC Santa Cruz. My roommates and I came back pretty late but stayed up even later chatting and playing card games. The next morning, I was pretty tired and took catnaps on the drive to UC Santa Cruz. As far as I was concerned, I already accomplished what I needed to on this trip; I’d  had an amazing time with friends and seen Berkeley, which impressed me within the first five minutes.

A view of all the green at UC Santa Cruz.

I was not prepared for stepping onto the beautifully mesmerizing campus of UC Santa Cruz and falling for another school all over again.

The first thing I noticed was how much crisper and cleaner the air was. I loved being surrounded by hundreds of trees and the buildings being made of glass to see the nature all around them. I love nature but I also love modern architecture, and this school was a perfect blend of both. There was also pieces of student-built art, including a statue that’s so large and uniquely shaped students can sit on it to work or talk.

Next, we drove south to the Irvine Spectrum, a mall in Orange County, for one more fun night out. My best friend, Pearl, and I grabbed dinner at Ruby’s Diner, a familiar place to us. (We were too tired to walk much farther throughout the huge mall.) We sat down and grabbed burgers, and I couldn’t help but tell her about how much I liked UC Santa Cruz.


Pearl and I taking pictures across the table at Ruby’s.
More across the table pictures at Ruby’s.
The Irvine Spectrum, all lit up at night.

I knew that after walking around and feeling the positive energy on the forest-like campus, I’d be applying at UC Santa Cruz in the fall. I also realized if it weren’t for this trip, I probably wouldn’t have at all.

That’s what the entire Bay Area trip was about, I think. My college advisor, Eric, wanted to give us not only an unforgettable experience but open our eyes to the brilliant and amazing UC and Cal State schools. If it weren’t for my school giving me the opportunity to tour these campuses, I wouldn’t have known how much I’d like them. When I came home, the first thing I did was research Berkeley and Santa Cruz further. Now, as I approach my senior year, nothing excites me more than submitting my application to both of these glowing universities.

UC Berkeley
UC Santa Cruz

About the Author

A senior attending High Tech High International, Jasmine Contile, who goes by Jazzy, is the oldest of three daughters (and two cats!) who live with her mom, Jessica. Her hobbies include writing fictional stories, swimming, diving, traveling, spending time with friends, and pursuing legal studies. She looks forward to finishing high school, seeing more of the world throughout college and living in a different city. You can follow her at (school blog).

By Kids Do the City--A Teen Travel Blog

Kids Do the City is a teen and tween travel blog. Teens and tweens who like to travel share their tips and adventures with other teens and tweens who travel.