Peter Dietrich, originally from Los Angeles, and Sandy Lawhead from Ohio met as UC Davis undergraduates in the late 1970s, eventually married, and have lived in Davis ever since.
About thirty years later, their son Chris, a life-long Davis resident, is attending UC Davis as a junior political science major and currently serving as ASUCD vice president.
“There’s going to be six degrees from UC Davis in my family by the time I graduate,” Chris Dietrich said. His father went on to earn a medical degree from UC Davis; his mother earned a law degree; and his brother Josh is also an alum.
While it may seem natural that Dietrich followed in the family tradition of attending UC Davis, he’s by no means the only Davisite who decided to stay in his hometown for college; there is a large network of Davis natives on campus.
Same zip code, different place
Although they grew up in town, Davis natives agree that attending the university they have passed by all their lives is an entirely new experience.
Prior to becoming bona fide UC Davis students, most of these Davis residents only got a peek at university life on the annual Picnic Day festivities.
“Now I see a whole different side to Davis,” Dietrich said. “[In high school] I didn’t really pay attention to the college kids. I knew the college was here, but it didn’t quite register.“
Christie Hajela, who has lived in Davis most of her life, shares Dietrich’s views.
“I didn‘t really know a lot of [areas of the] campus even existed,” said Hajela, a junior English and art history major.
Dietrich said that growing up he heard a lot about UC Davis from his parents and remembers attending alumni breakfasts, but this is the first time he is seeing the university from a student perspective.
And he was not the only one with ties to the school –most of his friends‘ parents went to UC Davis or were employed by the school.
Why UC Davis?
Although not all Davis natives saw UC Davis as their first choice, most left the option open.
“[Because of its proximity to home] UC Davis wasn’t my first choice, but when it came down to it, I thought ‘UC Davis is a really great school; if I hadn’t grown up in Davis I would have probably picked it,‘” Dietrich said. “I didn’t want to let the location hold me back, so I chose UC Davis, and I’m really happy that I did.”
Junior economics major Bobby Aiello moved to Davis with his family from the East Coast in 2000.
“When it came time to pick a college, I didn’t want to move again; I was just getting settled in Davis,” he said. “I still had things to explore.“
For others, UC Davis was not the original plan at all.
“I really wanted to go somewhere else in California, like UC Berkeley, but I ended up not getting in [to my top choice schools],” said Ana Ebrahimi, a recent arrival at UC Davis as a first-year biological systems engineering student.
So, Ebrahimi – originally from Novato, Calif. – opted to go with plan B and ended up staying in Davis, where she has lived since sixth grade.
“I [initially] didn’t want to go here – I thought it would be boring, and I already knew everything, but it wasn’t,” Ebrahimi said. “I am in love with it, so I’m really glad how it worked out.“
Most Davis natives chose to live in the dorms their first year, as they felt it would help them get involved in campus life.
Hajela roomed with yet another friend from Davis.
“I got to experience campus life, which is so much different than town life,” Hajela said. “Campus is kind of its own little world.“
Like Dietrich, Ebrahimi also has family connections to UCD as her brother is currently an undergraduate. She said there are certainly advantages of going to college so close to home.
“In the beginning [of the school year], I would go home every weekend for dinner, do laundry at home, get food,” she said. “I can still be on campus, but I can get everything I want from home if I need it.“
After getting the social experience living in the dorms, Ebrahimi is going to move back home next year.
“I never had to worry about getting an apartment,” she said.
Aiello agrees that the experience of going to college in his hometown has only been positive.
“A home cooked meal isn’t far away, and if I get sick my mom will come drop-off Airborne and some chicken soup,” he said. “And freshman year, I was one of the few that never got lost [in town]”
High school ties
While it’s hard to say just how many Davis locals have also roamed UC Davis‘ halls, Dietrich estimates that about 50 people from his graduating class alone chose to become Aggies.
Hajela said that she has remained close with all of her Davis High friends attending UCD – all of her roommates attended high school with her.
“It’s kind of cool to be walking around campus and see a familiar face,” Hajela said.
And Davis locals who have since moved on sometimes lament the decision, Aiello said.
“I remember listening to a lot of people saying how bad they wanted to get out of [the town of] Davis,” he said. “The funny thing is, when all those kids come back, they tell me how much they miss it.“
Just like any other student
Even though they are attending a university in their hometown, most Davisites said they feel as though they are getting the same experience as everyone else and tend to be very involved in campus life.
“I think [being a native] just sort of gives you the initial advantage– you know where everything is in [the city of] Davis already,” Dietrich said. “But other than that, I don’t think it’s much different – you‘re experiencing [Davis] from a different angle.“
ANNA OPALKA can be reached at email@example.com.