everyone at UCSB rides bicycles

… and surfs. and drinks beer. and has blond hair.


Okay, so those were some of the sterotypes we had in mind before we went.

We learned that there are also a lot of serious students who go to class and read books, and UCSB is very proud of their alumni.

If I am going to talk college visits, I have to back it up to our true first visit, over 18 months ago, to University of California – Santa Barbara.

Kristina and I were getting away from a truly vile winter-spring (weather-wise) that year to visit our friend Tracy and her family, who happen to live in a delightfully sunny location with year-round average temperatures of 70 degrees or more.  We had not seen temps like that for about eight months.  It was TIME.

Even though it was early (Kristina was still only a sophomore at that point, but was taking core classes with juniors who were starting to look at colleges), we decided to go ahead and visit colleges whenever we went somewhere new.

UCSB was a beautiful place to start.  The campus is right on the beach, with a ring road that takes you to parking lots around the outside.


One of the first things we passed was a lacrosse field, so Kristina felt right at home.

Once parked, we wandered by Admissions, picked up a map and other printed info, and took our own free-form tour.  They would have been happy for us to take a student-led tour, but we weren’t ready for something that format yet.

This is called a walking campus, but that is something of a misnomer.  It is in fact a cycling campus: there are people walking of course, but as many or more get around by bicycle or skateboard.

And not just any bicycles: nearly every one was a pastel-painted version of the upright, short-handled 50’s era bikes – complete with baskets – that remind me of the one ridden flown by the mean old lady who took Toto in the Wizard of Oz.  Except, not black.  Or in a tornado.


These bikes were everywhere. And no one wore a helmet.  They just rode along, carefree, blond hair flying, flip-flops flopping.  The campus is flat, and they don’t really get up to speed, so no worries there.  Cyclists were also (in our experience) very considerate of peds.

While we were there, we had coffee, walked through an outdoor market, looked into a dorm building, a music hall, the student centre, and the main admin building, toured an art exhibit, and walked down to the beach.

We talked to students, who were friendly and helpful, although a little vague.  Maybe we just weren’t used to how laidback everything was.  We were still blinking in the sun a little.


We stopped to talk to a pair of bicycle police who were looking relaxed (maybe police always look casual in shorts?) in the sun on the main mall.  They said the campus is a pretty good beat for them – stolen bikes are the most exciting (and frequent) thing they deal with most of the time.  (In addition to not having helmets, the riders didn’t seem to bother with locks either.)

This is a beautiful campus that feels smaller and cozier than its 18,000 students (14,000 undergraduates) would indicate.  We did not arrive with our own cameras, so I lifted a few shots from their site to give you an idea.

While UC schools have become increasingly selective (fewer than 4% of students accepted from out-of-state), I have heard recent rumblings that they will be accepting more out-of-state students as they can charge higher tuition rates to them.  With the current state of the CA economy, this is not too surprising.

Regarding our preconceived notions: we were right about the bikes.

And there is a lot of blond hair.


listening to: John Mayer, California Dreaming (I know, right? This is NOT what I expected.)


  • Oh man…if I had attended college at UCSB I would still be there cuz I would have a difficult time staying off the beach. As it was, I attended PLU in Tacoma and still found myself spending way too much time at Point Defiance Zoo/Park when I should have been studying.

  • I think location makes a big difference: you can’t hit the books (or the beer) ALL the time, and it is important to have a surround that appeals and stimulates. For some, that means outdoor space to get-away-from-it-all, for others – museums, art galleries, and architecture will do it. Still others need a sharp music scene.

    Speaking of Tacoma, have you read Jim Lynch’s The Highest Tide? It is set in the bays and shallow tide flats of South Sound, and is a wonderful heartfelt read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

link to your last blog post with a check here