My Journey at Cal

What’s that? Some new Cal freshmen doing a face mask–xoxo gossip girl

Up until August 23th at 9am, I was constantly reminiscing about freshman year. I’d always reflect on my amazing memories from the dorms. I remember meeting my two roommates for the first time and our first picture together—which yes my mom would later that semester ship me and my roommates each a mug with that first picture on it. Anytime I had to study, I’d miss the “two minute dance breaks every 90 minutes” that we would have in our room (great way to study by the way). I remember the exact night I was studying in the lounge for General Chemistry and met Pablo across the hall. Little did I know that he would end up becoming one of my closest friends here at Cal.

Freshman Year is a blur of smiles, laughs, and adventures. My roommates and I had a “Chalkboard Wall.” Anything silly, funny, or just plain weird got quoted and recorded. We’d have standoffs—seeing who could wait the longest without water. Because whoever caved and went to the water fountain down the hall first, would have to fill up everyone’s water. One time my roommate Julia tried to sneak out without us knowing, and I ran out into the hall and rolled mine all the way down. I’ll admit, we were a little ridiculous at times.

Freshman friends in Hawaii!
Just your average RRR week meal

But we also became incredibly close. In September, I explained the significance of the High Holidays and in December they listened quietly as I chanted the prayers over the channukiah. Over Spring Break, we all spent the week at Julia’s house in Hawaii (one could say the random roommate situation worked out very well for me). We even made little Go Pro videos of each day that we would send to our parents to watch. Needless to say, freshman year was everything I pictured it to be.

I was lucky; I came to college with one of my closest friends from high school. Since he was in Unit 1 and I was in Clark Kerr, we made our own friend groups and forged our own paths here at Cal. But anytime I needed a friend from home or someone to talk to that I didn’t have to explain a situation’s backstory, he was there. Every year Alpha Phi hosts a Red Dress Gala to raise both funds and awareness for women’s heart health. When my parents couldn’t come freshman year, he was ready to be by my side (and take the prom picture that never happened).

Daniel and me at Red Dress Gala
Cal Day freshman year!

Of course, there’s every Campus Ambassador’s favorite day: Cal Day. And even though college is hard, professors made my Freshmen Seminar experience exceptional with lively discussions, riveting debates, and cake.

Freshman Seminar on Evolution vs Creationism–ended with cake!
Julia and I dressing as NaCl for an Alpha Phi invite–she’s the chloride to my sodium

Sophomore year was a change in pace. I became one of the Captains of the Women’s Club Lacrosse team—pushing my leadership skills further than high school ever did. I was also living in Alpha Phi and loving it. I remember when I lived out and thought it was the “coolest thing ever” that older girls could just walk downstairs the minute before a meeting began. They inspired me with their confidence—this incredible, beautiful house was their home. But it soon became mine. Living in became as familiar to me as my years of sleepaway camp. Freshmen dorm dance parties were switched out for group study sessions. I was surrounded by over fifty friends constantly—and I loved it. I loved always being able to talk to someone, whether it be about the weather or my deepest insecurities.

Fall 2017 lacrosse team–clearly hard at work
Woo!! 2nd Cal day!! Met a high school senior who had taken my tour a few months earlier!

Overall, sophomore year is a strange time in one’s college career. You’re not the new baby bear on campus anymore, but you’re not an upperclassman yet. You still have time to figure out your academic plans, but the emails from the advising office about declaring are getting more and more frequent.

The transition from sophomore to junior year is when I truly realized how much I had grown in the last two years. Previously, I had only felt my full exuberant self at camp; now I was energetic and eager in any setting. I spent ten days on Birthright with fellow Berkeley students, learning about my ancestors and creating unforgettable memories. I was then incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to extend my trip and travel Europe with Daniel (from freshmen year Red Dress). Together I pushed past my fear of traveling alone (and walking over that small gap between the gate and airplane). I learned that college pushed me to go past my comfort zone and be myself in any situation. Being at Cal taught me to embrace any and all opportunities put in front of me and experience them with all my heart. But throughout all of this, I still had the memories of freshmen year in the back of my mind.

And then junior year began and at 9am I was sitting in MCB 135A—my first real upper division. I knew no one and the second the professor starting lecturing felt as though I knew nothing. But after awhile it started to click. How steroids bind to receptors began to make sense. I became more engaged in each course than I had ever been before. The next round of new members arrived to Alpha Phi, and I felt old. I found myself giving class advice and recommending clubs without a second thought. I no longer felt that pinch of longing for dorm life, but finally content that my college career was moving forward. I realized that bigger and better events were right around the corner. My friend group was solid, but still ever-growing. Although I wouldn’t trade freshman year for anything, I can finally say I’ve let go and ready to embrace being an upperclassman on Cal’s campus.

And every single tour I give, I fall in love with UC Berkeley once more.

Alpha Phi Sisterhood Retreat–my first time ever in Tahoe!

Author: Rachel Marcus

Hi all! I'm a junior from sunny Los Angeles, CA. I'm a Molecular and Cell Biology major emphasizing in Genetics and planning on becoming a genetic counselor. I've always been passionate about advocacy and have fallen in love with Cal's Public Policy minor. Most people recognize my loud, slightly raspy voice on campus before they see me walking backwards giving a tour of Cal. If you can't find me there, then I'm probably on the lacrosse field, in the lab, or at Alpha Phi (of which I'm the VP of Campus Affairs--go student involvement!) I'm absolutely in love with UC Berkeley and feel so lucky every day to be exposed to the immense amount of opportunities that we have here.