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.
As an incoming freshman last semester, I decided to take the Berkeley Connect in the History Department. In a wide campus full of diverse people, I was worried about meeting new people, so Berkeley Connect’s small setting with about 20 or fewer people seemed like a solid solution. The highlight of the program was the mentor, Krzysztof (Chris) Odyniec, who is the most amiable person I have met on campus. I had an initial fear of talking to campus faculty, but Chris helped me overcome those irrational fears. He was very approachable and appreciated any questions I asked. I learned about various countries (China and Spain) and the new unique perspectives of history. The one-on-one meetings with Chris were especially helpful. I had a chance to sit down with a faculty member and talk about which classes I was taking and how my semester was progressing. The support and advice I received from my mentor were enough to give me the confidence to stay on track the entire semester. In fact, a couple of weeks ago, I met Chris again on campus and we had a chance to talk briefly about how we were doing. It was a warm feeling because he remembered me from last semester. These kinds of connections are difficult to obtain in a vast campus, but Berkeley Connect, as its name gives it away, allows you to meet people who will be of support.
I also had a chance to meet current and previous history graduate school students. They shared their experiences and hardships of graduate school and the smart way to navigate through them. Although I am not a history major, those tips were still useful for anyone who is planning on graduate school. This exposure helped me consider the different fields of graduate school. The general tips that were helpful were to investigate the professors to make sure you are interested in their research, consider your financial options, and apply to many different graduate schools. Even though I am only a freshman, this panel of graduate students allowed me to think early about my options after undergraduate at Berkeley.
Within the program, we also had a chance to visit BAMFA. To a student, this is nothing out of the ordinary; however, there was a museum guide for the entire group. It made the entire experience much more engaging and interesting because the museum guide told us about the artist’s life and the meanings he imbued in his paintings. The field trip was very eye-opening. Without Berkeley Connect, I would have not had the chance to follow a tour guide in BAMFA for free.
And at the end of the day, the loving support and free food made Berkeley Connect the pinnacle of my week!