Even though our university is known for its academic rigor and unparalleled research, I like to think that the best lessons are actually taught outside the classroom. We students can spend so much time cranking in the studying hours to make sure that we know the material for our exams. However, the lessons that life gives us are happenchance, and we may not always be aware that life’s even giving us these lessons to begin with.
For example, I’m someone who grew up to be a little anxious in social situations. I found myself to be either uncomfortable in conversations or unable to relate to what the group’s talking about 7 times out of 10. I couldn’t think of anything to say to keep the conversation going, and whenever I said something, it was usually an awkward joke that left the conversation quieting down. Because of this, I was more of an introvert, especially during my junior high years.
I say I grew up introverted, yet here I am, leading groups all across the Berkeley campus in tours, advocating for the fostering of community and belonging for on-campus residents in the residence halls, and proudly proclaiming my spirit for this university.
Honestly, if you told my junior high self that I’d be working a job and volunteering for things where talking is the bulk of the role, I would’ve laughed. I was so reserved and shy. No one really knew who I was, other than ‘that smart girl from the Philippines.’ It took me this whole semester to realize just what led to me opening up much more.
Four years ago, I moved from small town Illinois over to the Bay Area. Moving here was one of the most important things that happened to my life. Before I moved, I was too afraid to take charge in a club, to stand up for myself, to even say anything. But ever since I moved practically across the entire continent to a new high school, a new town, and a new environment, I found myself standing up to myself more and giving myself more room to express myself and voice my opinions. So what was it that made me start to change the way I presented myself to others?
To me, the key is perspective.
Back before I moved to California, I kept telling myself that “I couldn’t.” I couldn’t disagree with other people, I couldn’t stand up for myself or for others, I couldn’t change into the outgoing, charismatic person I wanted to be. But the experiences I went through after moving here taught me that, actually, I absolutely could do whatever I set my mind to as long as I put the effort to do so. This change in perspective was crucial for me, and I genuinely believe that I wouldn’t have taken the leap to become a campus ambassador had I not had this shift in thinking. And I’ll continue to be thankful for the experiences here in my first year at Berkeley that helped me step up to this responsibility of representing the university.