Not too many people can say that they have their entire four-year college experience documented. Senior Gavin Berger, a television radio major at Ithaca College, has done just that on his Instagram page, “Welcome to Ithaca.”
Berger started the Instagram page during his freshman orientation. Berger said that when he and his friends were sitting by the Dillingham Fountains, one of his friends was filming and Berger stood up on a table and said, “Welcome to Ithaca.” Since then, Berger has posted a video about Ithaca on the page almost every day.
“One of my friends was like, ‘What if we did this every day,’” Berger said. “I was like, ‘Oh, that would be funny. Let’s see how long that lasts.’”
The account features what it is like to be an Ithaca College student, including life on campus, in the surrounding area and studying abroad. “Welcome to Ithaca” now has almost 600 followers with over 600 videos full of skits in different areas around Ithaca and information for students about events and clubs. Along with that, the Instagram page has also featured other students and even interviews with President Shirley M. Collado.
By creating this Instagram, Berger has been able to put his passion for digital content and his career goals into something feasible and has channeled his creativity.
“It pushes me to get out of my room and explore stuff but also to keep me creatively on my toes,” Berger said. “Every day I am trying to figure out something to promote, or a little skit, or like coming into a room and seeing what I can do in there. It gives me an excuse to explore campus and Ithaca in general, and even Cornell’s campus.”
Berger starts each video in a new spot somewhere around Ithaca then introduces a new event, fact or skit, and always ends his videos with “Welcome to Ithaca.” Some videos are more humorous, and others are informational. “Day 677” finds Berger sitting in a chair trying to come up with ideas for “Welcome to Ithaca.” He flips on a light to show he has an idea then looks around silently as nothing comes to him. In “Day 678,” Berger sits outside of the Roy H. Park School of Communications and reminds seniors to sign up for Senior Week events by April 14.
Although Berger founded the Instagram page, he has relied on his friends for help throughout the four years. Senior Skylar Eagle has helped Berger film and come up with ideas. Eagle said that if there was not anything to promote, most of the ideas were made quickly on the spot. She said that it was a collaborative process and that Berger would often take ideas from his friends.
“It makes me happy to see how involved all of our friends have been in this entire process,” Eagle said. “Taking turns filming, giving him ideas and being there as a support system — it’s just awesome to see someone enjoy something this much.”
Senior Madelyn Jacobs is a friend of Berger who studied abroad in London with him and helped him film videos for the page throughout the trip.
“When we were in London, those were especially fun because now I can go back and look at everything we did every single day,” Jacobs said. “A lot of the time we would try and film the professors or the women who ran the London Center because they are Ithaca College employees. He would explain to them what he did and try and get the other students and professors in as much as he could.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last spring, Berger filmed a few videos during quarantine about COVID-19 guidelines and procedures but then stopped because they were not fully about his college experience. “Welcome to Ithaca: Quarantine Edition” ran from March 23 to May 12, 2020, and included 23 videos.
“Towards the end I just felt a bunch of burnout while filming these videos,” Berger said. “But then I realized that it is more about my college experience and what is going on. If it is going to be a diary about what’s going on, then I should be talking about the initial part of quarantine.”
During Fall 2020, Berger did not keep up his videos since he studied remotely from home. Berger returned to posting a video every day when students were allowed to return to campus Jan. 25 for Spring 2021 . However, Berger said he faces new challenges while filming.
“Now [students] can’t read my lips because I am wearing a mask in all of them,” Berger said. “I am out of places on campus to shoot videos where I haven’t been before. It is hard to stay creative with stuff.”
Berger said his goal for “Welcome to Ithaca” has been to make a difference within the community but also in his own life. Berger said he wants people to connect through their love for Ithaca and the variety of activities they can take part in.
“I want people to feel motivated to do stuff … and also to be remotely entertained,” Berger said. “People have asked me why I do it or when I am going to stop doing it, but I eventually realized that I just had to do it for myself to prove to myself that I can just do it and to prove that my college experience was different. Everyone strives to be unique.”
Berger said that watching older videos is great because he can see how he has grown and become more confident. It is Berger’s last semester, making this the last season of “Welcome to Ithaca.” Because of Berger, he and the Class of 2021 now have a memento of their entire college experience.
“Some of those old videos, I remember the days that those were filmed and what we were doing at that time,” Eagle said. “It is really cool to look back sometimes and just watch those videos and remember that, and to not only see his college experience, but the similar experience that we shared through those videos.”