Entering my first quarter at UCLA, I found it incredibly easy to hibernate in my dorm room until classes started. I had snacks and ramen to sustain me for weeks. Plus, Netflix had an entire season of the Walking Dead for me ready to binge watch. I found no reason to venture further than the vending machine on the second floor.
Moving to college felt kind of like booting up a new open world video game, where you still haven’t unlocked most of the map and most of it is blacked out. The main difference? For the time being, there was no “quest” or “campaign” to prompt me to explore my surroundings.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make friends as quickly as my roommates did. By day two after moving in, the cliques had already formed. I convinced myself that I’d missed the window of opportunity, losing any hope of a social life for the foreseeable future.
This left me with nowhere to be and nowhere to go. I’m aware it sounds a little pathetic, but to be honest, I was rather cozy and content alone in my room. I wasn’t bitter because I wasn’t in any sort of rush. I had faith that once classes started, I’d find myself forced back out into the sunlight and into the realm of human interaction. That would’ve been a great plan if it weren’t for the minor fact that it didn’t work.
When classes started, Google Maps led me directly to my classes and back to my dorm without a single hitch or awkward detour. Unfortunately, I relied on awkward detours. I hoped that in my struggle to find lecture halls and classrooms, I’d learn my college campus inside and out through trial and error. Instead, day after day I’d find myself walking the same path to and from class. Since Google assured me that this was the fastest and most efficient route, I had no reason to challenge the path chosen for me. Who am I to question Google?
There was no back up plan. I was stuck and to be honest, a little bit lonely as well. Until, one day, I finally had a breakthrough.
I couldn’t help but notice that I was doing quite a bit of walking, despite the limited variation in routes. Now, by this point in time, the hype of Pokemon Go had long died out. And much like almost everyone else, I abandoned it months ago. Anyone who has played it long enough would understand that after a while, if you walk a significant distance and you don’t have the app running, you begin to feel empty inside. You feel as if you wasted all that walking when you could have had it count towards your egg hatching.
So one average sunny day in October, I reopened the Pokemon Go app. This became a habit whenever I walked back from class. Soon I began to change up my usual route to maximize my daily XP by reaching as many Pokestops as possible. I quickly learned where the Pokestops next to Powell Library or the Student Activities Center were. I became more and more comfortable and familiar with my surroundings. When I reached Pokemon gyms, I was surprised to discover that I wasn’t alone. There were still others, like me, aspiring to “catch ’em all.” I even made a friend or two in the pursuit. I felt less out of place. People on campus suddenly seemed much less intimidating. I was less afraid to explore, with or without the app.
In a few weeks I felt proud of how well I knew my way around campus. Funny enough, if anyone ever stopped me again to ask where Kerckhoff Hall is, (which for some reason happens surprisingly often at UCLA) I would still have absolutely no clue which way to send them. However, I’m 100 percent confident that I’d be able to tell them exactly where to find the best gelato in the residential area.
I can’t quite remember at which point along the way I had abandoned Pokemon Go again. It had served me well, and disappeared from my life when I no longer needed it. Perhaps one day my hopes to achieve the impossible and catch every single one of the Pokemon will rekindle. But then again, perhaps that was never the point in the first place.
Looking back, I’m grateful for the role Pokemon Go played in making UCLA a home. I’m even more grateful not to have crashed headfirst into any poles along the way.