“Five hundred people.” The words echoed in my head as I followed my tour guide around the campus. I had never been in a class with more than 20 students, so how was I supposed to survive in class at Berkeley, with 499 other students competing for the professor’s attention? How was I supposed to be successful?
I was terrified coming into Berkeley, having gone to small schools my entire life. I was used to being extremely close to my teachers, knowing them on a personal level as well as an academic one. I had no trouble getting help in my classes, and often times my teachers would seek me out when I seemed to not understand a topic, before I even tried to reach out. I was used to a certain way of learning, and I was scared that Berkeley would be a challenge. I was also used to having a close knit group of friends on a small campus, and although I was ready to move to a bigger pond, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to make the jump from 400 to 40,000.
However, right after moving into my dorm and meeting my roommates, I was determined to not let myself fall behind at Berkeley. I had gotten here for a reason, and even while being unsure about how I would tackle my classes and make friends at Berkeley, I got started. I joined the Women’s Club soccer team, and joined a sorority. I applied for a couple jobs on campus, and found a volunteer opportunity that I instantly fell in love with. I let a lot of my worries and anxieties about making friends go, meeting new people and trying new things (even if they scared me just a little bit). I tried hot yoga for the first time, and found a new favorite restaurant. I threw myself out there, trying to find a group of people I loved, and trying to find myself at the same time. The first year was a whirlwind, but trying many different things was one of the best decisions I let myself make that year. I met people that I now feel like I couldn’t live without, and just like that, Berkeley became home. I held myself accountable for going to class discussion sections, where I met in groups of 20 students rather than 500 to discuss course material. I wrote down every class review session in my planner, and I took advantage of professor office hours, asking questions simply to get to know them and make them feel accessible. I joined study groups, knowing that since I was making a big transition from high school, I needed to soak up every ounce of assistance Berkeley provided.
Within my first year, I found my home. I fell in love, I found my academic passion, and I became a happier person because of it. I let my mind stay open, and allowed the diversity of the Berkeley community to shape me into the person I am today.