I still remember the first time I came to Cal Day, almost 5 years ago as a junior in high school, eager to get started on the college application process, but unsure about how I was going to pick the place where I would spend the next 4 years of my life. I knew college would be an incredible experience, and I knew that I would experience an immense amount of personal growth, but what I didn’t know is that my time as an undergraduate student would pass by quicker than any other time in my life.
Here I stand, 5 years later as a college senior at UC Berkeley, with my entire life ahead of me, and all of the possibilities in the world awaiting me. I feel nervous and scared, uncomfortable with the idea of working a 9-5 office job, nervous about my skills and capabilities, a head full of what-ifs and curious dreams, and a desire to make sure that whatever I do benefits humanity and the natural environment around me. I’m scared, and I really don’t know what my life will look like in just 1 year, but beyond the academic preparation and mental growth, Berkeley has taught me to be okay with not knowing. After all, some of the best things in life, though earned and worked for, grow out of complete uncertainty, and taking leaps of faith that send you into something amazing.
However, over the past few months in particular (especially since I got back from spending a summer abroad in Prague), my brain has started to put everything in perspective. As I live through my last first day of school, my last Halloween night, my last Big Game, and my last holiday excitement as a Berkeley student, I think ahead to what my life will be like a year from now. At the same time, I also look back on what my life was like during this time last year, and I remember how carefree and absorbed in my student and work life I was. I didn’t really think about my Berkeley undergraduate career ending, because at that time it really felt like it never would. I felt pride, excitement, and a sense of calm every time I walked by the Campanile, whereas now I feel all of those things with an added pang of both nostalgia and appreciation. I now walk around campus, noticing all the small things that I usually take for granted, imagining what it will be like to walk these same pathways as a graduated alum.
One day, I’ll take my kids to the Campanile, and I’ll explain that I used to greet visitors, give tours, open and close the tower, and welcome thousands of students to the campus each week. I’ll walk past Sather Gate and recall the lines of Cal Day tables in the Information Marketplace, and all of the planning hours that I put in to help the amazing admitted students day to come to life. I’ll walk past Wurster Hall and remember all the punchy late nights I had preparing for my reviews, the community, and the projects I worked on in the fabrication shops. I’ll walk past Dwinelle and remember the nerves I always had going into my upper division Spanish classes, and walking past the Alumni House I’ll remember everything from my first new student reception, to my last Campus Conversations event as a campus ambassador. I’ll never forget the sunny days relaxing on Memorial Glade, or the late night laser cutting trips to the Citris Invention Lab with my friends. I’ll remember the moments of panic and sadness, but also the moments of utter joy, all mixed into incredibly intense emotions and love for the Berkeley Campus. As I walk onto campus in the morning, or take the 51B home after a long day, I think about the fact that soon I might not be able to walk to my destination every day, and I feel lucky because of the life that I’ve established at Berkeley. All of the day trips to the beach, the nightlife downtown, the fire trail hikes, and the days out in the city (San Francisco) are imprinted on my mind forever, and I can only hope that I’ll be able to live a similar life once I am out there in the world on my own. I’m terrified of the life ahead of me, but I am also so thankful to have had an experience at Berkeley that is worth being so sad to leave.