Berkeley Connect is a miniscule program within our enormous campus. In this one unit course, Cal students of all ages and majors can sign up for a Berkeley Connect course under a specific department, such as History, Math, English, Physics, Music, and Computational Biology. All these diverse departments give students a chance to check out which majors and courses best suit and interest them. With each department’s detailed syllabus, Berkeley Connect students connect with a mentor and graduate school students, while eating (free!) dinner and embarking on field trips. If these factors aren’t enough to interest you in Berkeley Connect, I’ll share my own personal experience with the program.
I have had many incoming students on my tours as me for advice for UC Berkeley freshman. This is a hard question to answer – being a large research university, opportunities at UC Berkeley are nearly endless. No two paths are identical, and it is impossible to generalize life at Cal. This being said, I have one recommendation that applies university to all incoming freshman – take a freshman seminar. Why? Here’s a few reasons.
- Freshman seminars are an opportunity specially designed for incoming students. Most freshman classes are large, and connecting with professors, while not impossible, can prove difficult. On the other hand, seminars connect you directly with a professor through an intimate setting. These 1 unit courses have no more than 15 other students in them. Your professor will not only know you by name, but get to know your interests and aspirations.
- You will be able to connect with other first year students who share your interest. Freshman seminars are offered in almost every department at UC Berkeley – hosting a range of options from Biology to History. Being a part of a seminar provides you with a way to network with other students who, most likely, will be your classmates for 4 years. Through an intellectual setting, freshman seminars are a great way to make new friends.
- Freshman seminars allow you to explore a topic without the pressure of a 4 unit graded course. Last semester, I took a linguistics seminar with Professor Lin out of pure curiosity. What is linguistics? I had no idea. Professor Lin walked by 10 student seminar through the basics of linguistic analysis, as well as introducing relevant topics of the day. She inspired me to take a (much more intense) Ling 100 class this semester, and possibly major or minor in the discipline. Without this freshman seminar, I would have been too nervous to explore outside my comfort zone.
All these reasons not enough? Sometimes the professor will bring in donuts!
It’s no surprise that Berkeley students are busy. We’ve got classes, clubs, work, and endless more commitments. Trust me when I say we do still take care of ourselves and have some fun.
When I do get time off, my personal favorite pass time is hiking. As a resident of Clark Kerr, I can walk 5 minutes from my dorm room before I hit the fire trails. These span all around the hills behind Berkeley and can range from anywhere between a 1 to 5 mile hike. I enjoy spending my Sunday mornings waking up early, make smoothies for my friends, and heading out to one of these trails for about an hour before we can treat ourselves with Clark Kerr brunch. Being able to start off my week with an activity that only makes me more excited for the days ahead, is quite rejuvenating. There are points of these trails that can push my athletic ability but I always remind myself of the beautiful view at the top. Once we see that peak of the hill, my friends and I will run towards the vista point and revel at the beautiful view ahead of us. In one direction is the industrial city of Oakland and to the other is the ever so famous Golden Gate Bridge. Of course we also get a great view of our very own Sather Tower. That view never fails to remind how lucky we are to go to school in such a dynamically gorgeous part of the world.
“You’re a math major?? Why would you do that to yourself??!”
This is the initial response I get about 90% of the time I tell someone that I am a math major. It is typically then followed by asking me what I could possibly want to do with this degree other than become a math teacher.
While being a math teacher is a wonderful profession for some, it is definitely not the reason I chose to major in math. I went into math because I love the puzzle which is mathematics. Every new concept I learn is an opportunity for me to problem solve and eventually apply those skills to real life problems.
Ask anyone that has been through college, “what’s the most important thing you learned in those years?” Maybe some of them will tell you that they learned to have fun, or challenge themselves. Maybe some of them discovered a new passion, or met the love of their life. There are an infinite number of experiences during college, but I bet that 99% of them have nothing to do with just classes. College teaches you an infinite number of life lessons, many of which come from within yourself. No one can prepare you for the ways in which your life can change, and the whirlwind can often feel a bit crazy. So, what’s to be expected?
If you ask me how I feel about Cal, my answer is always “Go Bears!” After a win, after a loss, or even when there is no game at all–my spirit is always there .
Since my freshman year, I’ve been a part of the Rally Committee, the largest spirit and service organization on campus. Aside from this, I’ve been working with our Cal Athletics department as a student intern. I live and breathe Cal Spirit, and it’s well worth the effort. Being a Cal Fan has given me countless memories and opportunities that have shaped my college experience.
Attention y’all — this is important! Us Golden Bears need to start appreciating and taking advantage of the amazing area of the world that we are lucky to call our temporary home while we are students here. Berkeley and the larger Bay Area is some of the most prime real estate out there, and a place that people would do almost anything to live in. While, it is incredibly easy to get sucked into the academic world that makes up so much of your time here at Cal, it’s important to enjoy your college years, and truly experience the world around you. That includes finding the hidden gems of Berkeley and venturing out into the city every now and again! SO, here is your comprehensive bucket list for your years at this wonderful university:
One of the best things about Berkeley is the network. I’ve had the chance to meet plenty of professionals in the area, along with many successful alumni that just love helping all of us undergrads out. Aside from the great academics I get here, Cal has the connections and opportunities to get you ready once you get that diploma.
The Career Center touches base with anything that can relate to career building: resume workshops, networking events, interview prep, etc. I am probably one of the most avid supporters of the Career Center on campus. I visit an advisor at least 4 times a semester, and each time I feel a little more confident about where I’m going after college. Before I applied for my first real internship, I stopped by the center for a mini-appointment to review my resume. At the time I didn’t think my resume was amazing, but I was just expecting a few notes here and there to help me out. I walked out with a paper full of notes, but I felt a thousand times more confident about what my resume had to offer. I ended up getting the job too, and I say a lot of it had to do with how the Career Center shaped my perspective of my own roles.
When I came to Cal Day last year as an anxious senior in high school trying to decide on which school to commit to, I was waiting for that one wow factor to solidify my decision. Walking along Sproul and talking to Cal students from all parts of the world really opened my eyes. I knew right then that I could never pass up this opportunity to learn alongside such diverse people and take advantage of the wide range of perspectives.
In my time here at Cal, I have to say that the one thing I love most and eagerly look forward to everyday is meeting new people. I never would have imagined that my best friend would be a student from Southern California studying Integrative Biology but also actively seeking to understand the bridge between society and language, or that my roommate would be an international student from Turkey with more to say about feminism than your average American protestor. Just the other day I was at Golden Bear Cafe and I met someone in the line who had actually met with President Obama and Michelle Obama for a youth conference. We purchased our coffees and ended up talking outside for an hour about the major flaws in the American healthcare system.
So we’ve all probably heard of that weird acronym called “RA” before, right? Well, RA stands for Resident Assistant. RAs are older students who live in the residence halls and help new and continuing students become accustomed to campus. The RA also puts on events to build community among the floor of students.
Whether you are a current Berkeley student, or alumni of Berkeley, you will probably never forget your first RA’s name. Freshman year, I lived in Unit 3 Norton, and my RA’s name was Miki. I lived on an all-girl’s floor, so I’m sort of confused how a majority of my friends at Berkeley are male… but that’s beside the point. During my freshman year, I really loved meeting everyone on the floor and in my building. The residence hall was such an easy place to meet new people and make new friends because we all shared a communal bathroom together and had numerous lounges to hang out in. From game nights to birthday parties, we all became super close friends. Being an out-of-state student and not knowing anyone at Berkeley, I really appreciated the opportunity to meet a bunch of people, especially because I know I will be friends with them for life.
My entire experience in the residence hall my freshman year is why I wanted to be an RA. I was super interested in putting on events to help my residents build the same community and friendships that I was able to have my freshman year. This year, I am an RA at Clark Kerr Campus to 55 first-year students. I love all of my residents. Getting to know everyone’s interests, quirks, likes, and dislikes has been such a rewarding part of this experience. I truly feel like I can be friends with my residents after they move out of the hall at the end of the semester. Seeing these first-year students grow from a fresh-faced, just-out-of-high school student who may be experiencing freedom for the first time, to a more mature, studious student who is discovering their identities has been amazing to observe.
Being an RA and having all of these new experiences is a great talking point when meeting new people. Many friends usually ask if I have any crazy RA stories (I do) or they ask if I have ever written anybody up (I have). In addition to creating community and helping students adjust, the RA is also responsible for documenting residence hall policy violations. This job can be very stressful during emergency situations or just living in the residence hall in general and hearing students being loud in the hallways passed quiet hours. But, all of this is what makes the RA job truly unique: it is definitely a hands- on learning experience.
The RA is the mother bird and all of our residents are our little chicks. I’m going to be sad when my current residents move out at the end of the semester into other living situations, but I will be excited for the upcoming group of residents that I will get next fall!