Finding a Community


My housemates and friends at dinner for the USC football game in Los Angeles

When I first started school at UC Berkeley, I had no idea how I was going to fit into the sea of students.  I came from a small high school, and I knew almost no one at Berkeley. I wanted to make friends and find some sort of community, but with over 30,000 students and 1,100 clubs, I was completely overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start.  

Then I auditioned for the Cal Band.  I had to arrive at school a week early for a music audition, and after I traveled to Hayward for a weekend training program where I learned marching with other members of the band.  It was pretty intimidating at first. The Cal Band is a large organization with over 250 members, and I had never marched a field show before. That entire weekend was full of all kinds of new experiences including learning how to high step, meeting hundreds of people all at once, and eating in a dining hall for the first time.  It was terrifying and exhausting, but by the end of the weekend, I had 250 new friends to help me feel more comfortable on campus.

The Cal Band is a really unique kind of community.  Though I’ve joined other student clubs here on campus, I have never felt the same kind of connection with members of clubs other than Cal Band.  In the Cal Band, we spend hours together every single day, and because of that we get to know each other really well. We see each other on our worst days and our best days and provide constant support for one another.  Sometimes doing both school and band can be stressful and exhausting, but we have each other’s backs and help one another. On top of that, we’re all connected by the same shared passion: a love for music and performing that makes our bonds grow deeper.  

The bonds I’ve made through the Cal Band community have truly been the highlight of my college experience so far.  Though I’ve gotten to travel all over and perform for thousands of people, the best part of Cal Band has been the people I’ve met.  I currently live in a house off campus with six of my best friends, all who I met through Cal Band. Every week, we watch movies together, bake together, and spend time together as a family.  This group of people has become my home away from home.

Though I’m not suggesting everyone should join Cal Band, I do think it is important, especially as a first year, to get involved and find some sort of community here at Cal.  Whether that’s a group of people from a club, from your floor, or from one of your classes, having a sense of community at Berkeley makes the large campus feel a lot smaller. Having a loving and welcoming community truly makes Berkeley feel like a home away from home.

Author: Kelly D'Ambrogia

Hi! My name is Kelly and I'm a junior from Petaluma, California. Here at Berkeley I study both Molecular Environmental Biology and Spanish - two very different subjects that I absolutely love. If I'm not in the library, you can usually find me performing on the field with Cal Band or working in the lab with mantis shrimps and octopuses. In my free time, I love going on adventures in Berkeley and San Francisco with my friends. I love Berkeley and I can't wait to share my experiences with you. Go Bears!