It was a relatively warm, windless March Thursday, but I didn’t much notice. My teachers taught me about the American judicial system and statistical T-tests, but there was really one thing on my mind: UC Berkeley admissions, 5 P.M. After school I trudged home in a heavy, contemptive silence, slogged through an hour of homework, and attended a voice lesson without fully concentrating on my scales or songs. 5 P.M.
I raced home, hands trembling and knees shaking as I opened up my laptop and logged onto my email. And then there it was. “Congratulations!” it read. Disbelief, jubilation, pure happiness.
Cal was always towards the top of my list of schools – I was drawn to its prestigious reputation and academic rigor, and attracted to the school spirit that seemed to exude from the students and the buildings themselves. But it was never my only first choice, and when applying to colleges, the only parameter to which I rigidly clung was staying in California. Within the state, I applied to big and small schools, liberal arts and research universities, and schools in NorCal and SoCal.
Following the immediate relief and jubilation of my acceptance, I felt the weight of a decision that needed time and careful thought. I toured four schools, scoured the depths of university websites, poured over “Welcome to ______” info packets, and spent a lot of dinners starting at my parents as they asked: “So, any more thoughts?”
I needed time to get here. I learned that this process wasn’t easy, and I don’t think it’s supposed to be. It didn’t take me three hours, or three days, but I don’t think it should have. As a current junior, almost exactly 3 years after sending in my SIR, I’m realizing I’ve only begun to understand how much Cal has given me and how much it has changed me in the most wonderful ways. There were growing pains and extra phone calls home for the first few months, and the occasional night spent curled up, facing the wall, wondering what I had gotten myself into. But the experiences that Berkeley has afforded me still impresses and energizes me today.
The moment you step onto Sproul Plaza, the electric energy that is uniquely Berkeley will overcome you. This school spirit,, cultivated by the student groups, rallies, and a cappella groups that color life on Sproul, doesn’t end upon passing under Sather Gate’s formidable archway: it pervades the entirety of the campus, and in just a few short weeks, coursed through my veins as I began to eat up the Berkeley experience. I’ve gotten involved with a choir, I tutor reading, writing, and history to students at an elementary and a high school, and I’ve immersed myself in Cal spirit and traditions by joining the UC Rally Committee. I’ve spent many hours out on Sproul handing out flyers for these various clubs, and have attended various sporting events as part of the student section, cheering my lungs out for my fellow Golden Bears. I went from an indifferent sports fan to someone who gets very excited for football game days!
It’s a very big school, that’s a given. At times a scary understatement. But I’ve learned to make it my home by finding my smaller communities. I started with a list of 1,100 clubs, and found the ones whose causes I was most passionate about and whose members I gelled with. I came in as an English major, added Peace and Conflict Studies along the way, and have been able to not only take classes from internationally recognized professors, but also learn alongside and become friends with my brilliantly minded peers in both fields. Some of my closest friends on campus are ones I’ve met through my majors, and I love getting coffee and discussing Shakespeare or world events with peers who are equally driven and dedicated.
That’s the spiel I give at the end of each tour, and after 85 tours, it hasn’t gotten any less true. Committing to Berkeley has positively changed my life in every way I thought and hoped it would plus so many more. This is my Berkeley story, and if Berkeley’s on the table for you, maybe it’ll can be yours.