Almost every UC town is known for its own unique personality. UC Santa Barbara has the reputation of being the best party school; Santa Cruz is notorious for its deep-seated and laidback stoner atmosphere; Berkeley is more known for the liberal activism of its students. It’s enough to make an Anteater wonder … what does Irvine have going for it?
“There’s nothing to do,” is a common student complaint one will hear around the city. “Only the frats and sororities throw good parties.” “You have to go to Newport to find a good bar.” “Our school actually passed up on a football team for a second library.” It almost sounds like many students are seeking qualities from other UC towns in their own UCI.
The atmosphere in Irvine is definitely not as communal as Santa Barbara, a city with many of its own quirks, landmarks and appealing flaws. People walking down the street exude an inviting warmth. UCSB students bring home stories of the notorious “Pirate Bum,” one of SB’s many homeless people who dresses up like a pirate and, for a quarter, will speak, act and dance with you like one. Halloween in Santa Barbara is such a carnival of debauchery and mayhem that students from all over California yearn to experience it at least once. And if you’ve never devoured a monster Freebird’s burrito, then you’ve never truly experienced delicious, sickeningly greasy Baja California Mexican cuisine.
Santa Cruz is well-known for its gorgeous natural beauty and intensive hiking scene, appealing qualities that apparently mesh well with the intense stoner community. In testament to the latter, UCSC is probably the only campus on the continent that offers “History of Consciousness” as a legitimate major. The school is well-known for its annual “First Rain” tradition – a cross-campus run whereupon the first rain of the school year, students strip at Porter College and run naked through each college to gather more runners before returning to Porter for a drum circle.
You will be hard-pressed to find the college student who is not interested in at least one of the aforementioned school qualities. Stacked up next to all this, what do Anteaters do for fun in Irvine?
For starters, while we may not have our own full-fledged “First Rain,” UCI does have a bi-annual “Undie Run” at the end of the fall and spring quarters which has steadily been gaining popularity. Previous Undie Runs have had news coverage and sponsors such as Red Bull, with DJs spinning music as people gather at the flagpoles.
Students strip to their skivvies and book it through UCI, the University Center and then back to the flagpoles.
Living in a town practically owned by a single company – the Irvine Company – is definitely going to be a lot less of a high-energy lifestyle than somewhere like Santa Barbara.
The strictly-corporate mindset of the city, composed primarily of restaurants, grocery stores and more restaurants, has taken a dramatic toll on the city’s energy. As opposed to San Francisco, where you can roam the streets and make friends with strangers on the spot, Irvine’s business-like atmosphere, having gotten into the heads of many an Anteater, makes the same kind of social outing a lot more difficult. Your best bet to make new friends, aside from joining a campus club or making drinking buddies at the bars in Newport, is the Anti-Mall.
If you’re feeling adventurous (and have money to spare), try rushing a fraternity or sorority. The experience forces you to make new friends, as well as leap outside your comfort zone. You may be surprised to find that not every Greek organization is your Hollywood movie stereotype of drunken jocks or catty bitches – depending on which one you rush. Taking a class at the ARC for skills like massage, cooking, Tai Chi or swing dancing will also place you around like-minded people.
On a campus as docile as UCI, any festival or event is cause for excitement. While nearly all students know of the Ring Road vendor fair that each quarter brings to campus, surprisingly few are aware of the Farmer’s Market held in the University Town Center parking lot every Saturday morning. It’s a great place to get farm-grown vegetables and fruits for cheap, as well as some fancy cheeses, wines, desserts, jewelry and so on.
Let’s face it, people don’t come to Irvine to have fun. They come here to get a good education. So we have to make the best out of what we have to work with. In the end, it all comes down to what your personal definition of “fun” is. The drinkers will find more to do in many different bars of Newport than in UCI’s pub, Irvine’s only real bar that isn’t actually a restaurant.
The nature-lovers can head to the wildlife preserve near the outskirts of Mesa Court, as well as the beaches and hiking trails along the Newport coast. If you have transportation, seek out activities in the wild blue yonder of Orange County. Believe it or not, the OC does have things like paintball, salsa dancing clubs, go-karts, karaoke bars (and for the timid, karaoke booths), martial arts studios, arcade/mini-golf/bumper boats parks and so on.
Stay sane, Irvine. Believe it or not, the opportunities are endless.