Branching Out

As a double major in two completely unrelated subjects here at UC Berkeley, I don’t usually have a lot of room left in my schedule to take classes outside of my majors.  My typical semester involves four classes for my majors in addition to my research lab, which doesn’t leave me with a lot of spare room. However, this semester I was able to register in a special one unit seminar through the Center for Latin American Studies here at Berkeley.  The class only meets once a week for three hours, and only runs for a month. It seemed like an amazing opportunity and a great way to branch out from my required major classes so when the opportunity arose, I registered without a second thought.

The Center for Latin American Studies is an amazing organization on campus that hosts public events, lectures, and resources to better enhance public understanding of Latin American culture and politics in the United States.  Occasionally, the center will invite guest lecturers and writers to lead on campus seminars and workshops. This semester, the seminar is being taught by Sergio Fajardo, the former governor of Antioquia and a former presidential candidate for the country of Colombia.  

One of the most interesting parts of the seminar is the different backgrounds and histories of the students in the class.  In order to register for the seminar, all of us had to submit an application stating why we wanted to take the seminar, regardless of our majors.  My first day of the seminar, I immediately learned the extent of our diverse set of backgrounds. The majority of students are graduate students, but there are about 10 undergraduates taking the class as well.  In addition, we all have different academic focuses. We hail from a wide variety of subjects, including astrophysics, architecture, education, political science, and even molecular biology. Furthermore, we represent countries all over the world, including Peru, Columbia, Italy, and the United States.

This diverse background of students is one of the things that makes the seminar so unique.  At the beginning of every class session, we have a Q&A period that lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.  During this time, the questions range from environmental issues in Colombia, to women in politics, to urban development, to education, to every other imaginable topic.  Though the class is mainly structured around Fajardo’s history in politics, we the students have been able to shape the topics and questions covered through the influence of our own unique backgrounds and history.  

This seminar to me represents such a unique and wonderful aspect of Berkeley life.  We as Berkeley students come from all different backgrounds and histories, yet are so passionate and excited to be studying here.  We take classes for fun and for interest, even if they don’t count for our major requirements. Most importantly, we are all here to learn, not only from our professors but also from one another.  Through this seminar, I have been able to learn so much about a country I previously knew little about, as well as meet so many interesting and knowledgeable people. I feel so lucky to be able to take advantage of amazing opportunities like this during my time here at Berkeley.  

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!