It’s a cry you can hear all around campus. During finals week, football games, or even when you get the last slice of pizza in the dining halls and you’re way too excited about it. In all honesty, it’s a very versatile cheer: when you’re happy, sad, scared, stressed, or anywhere in between. To some, it might be a way of showing sympathy, and to others a celebration after finishing 3 papers all conveniently due on the same day. Maybe it’s the perfect way to sum up all 4 years as a Berkeley student, or maybe it’s a way to find your Berkeley friends in a big crowd. Whatever it may be, “Go Bears” is the cry of a community: a group of students who are passionate, who challenge themselves, and who all have a certain soft spot either for Berkeley itself or for the people they have met here. In a way, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s a method of identifying with people that have a shared experience at one of the best universities in the world.
I had gotten pretty used to seeing Cal shirts and hats no matter where I went, ending up behind cars with “UC Berkeley Alumni” printed on the license and seeing diplomas framed in family homes. I had noticed it more frequently once I started as a freshman, feeling a sense of pride that one day, I too would be parading around with my alumni merchandise talking about the life-changing 4 years I had at Berkeley. I felt happy, knowing that I had joined a community that knew what it meant to say the words “Go Bears” and mean it.
It wasn’t until this past spring however, that I truly realized the value of Berkeley’s education. Of course, anyone who has sat in on a class, visited Cal Day, or even has stood at the top of the Campanile during Game Day, knows how special Berkeley is, knows the rigorous academic expectations, and knows what a community this university has, but what I did not know is that such pride and camaraderieextended beyond the campus and classrooms. At the end of my sophomore year, while interviewing for my top-choice internship, I found out that two out of three of my interviewers happened to be Berkeley alumni that had graduated from the same department in which I was in. They asked about the specifics of my schoolwork that they had insight on because of their own experiences, and they were able to tell me about their professional lives during and after college. Furthermore, as I proceeded to start that internship in the summer, I found that about 50% of the professional staff in my department had gone to Berkeley at some point in their life, and they had so many fond memories of their experiences. Now, that’s not to say that Berkeley creates a hiring bias in the workplace, but rather it cultivates a reliable precedent for education, and it creates a valuable camaraderie that starts a conversation. During this internship, I heard so many inspiring stories that I could easily relate to, and I was able to see the kinds of trajectories possible after a Berkeley education. Those that had graduated from the same program that I was in often had the same projects and Berkeley community experiences, and loved to hear about the work I was currently doing.
As a junior, I have only just begun to explore the possibilities in the professional field, but I have already run into the widespread, omnipresent Berkeley alumni network. No matter what field of work you go into, chances are there are Berkeley alumni with the same trajectory as you, with wisdom, reassurance, or stories to share. Berkeley students are everywhere, and who knows: maybe one day you too will have an interview that starts and ends with a casual “Go Bears!”