What I Wish I Knew as a College Freshman

My friend and I posing for the camera on the sand at Stinson Beach

“The next four years will fly by… just you wait!”

Every new student hears these words when they enter college, but seldom pay attention. “Yeah, yeah, I get it… I should enjoy my time here,” you might respond. I know that my first year I heard older students say these words, and I understood that I would miss college once I was done, but the end seemed so far away that I really didn’t think much of it. I chalked it up primarily to nostalgia on their part: seeing the potential of new students and remembering when they felt the same. As all students do, I got wrapped up in the constant rush of school, making it through school one day at a time, not thinking much about the fact that I would be going out into the world, on my own, in just a few years. Of course the future was always on the horizon, but I was a student and I always had been, and at that point I didn’t know how to think of my life as much else. read more

My Favorite Ways To Get Outdoors

Tis the season: midterms, papers, and projects. The end of the school year is starting to set in, and it is increasingly easier to get locked inside studying or, if you are like me, enjoying one too many episodes of the Blacklist beforehand. Below are some of my favorite ways to get outside and not get too familiar with the inside of Mainstacks. 

  1. Ice skating in Union Square

If you are willing to travel a little bit, ice skating is a really fun way to take a break from Berkeley and get outside. A couple of weeks ago, my friend and I went into San Francisco to go ice skating, and it was one of my favorite things I have done this semester. Being from Connecticut, I grew up skating, so it was really nice to get a small taste of home. Also, the area around Union Square is really nice and there are lots of places to shop or get coffee, so I would highly recommend this if you have a little extra time and want an outdoorsy study break! read more

Finding Your Place

Going to a large school such as UC Berkeley can become intimidating at times, but through persistence and passion one can navigate through and find the pieces of this school that somehow seem like such a perfect fit. Being an underrepresented minority in a very large school can feel like there are not many places or opportunities present for someone like you, and it is tempting to spend all of your time alone rather than go out and attempt to join groups of people that may not accept you. But these challenges that come our way are only allowing for even larger celebration when we achieve our goals, and that is how I inspire myself to keep on pushing when I’m down, because things only get better if you try. read more

Expanding on My Residential Life Experience

Let’s take things back to September of 2017. I had been a student at Berkeley for two weeks and had lived there for only three. I was still trying to get my footing in classes and in the residence halls. As part of our transition into campus, we were asked to have conversations with our RA, or Resident Assistant, sometime within the first few weeks of being on campus. These conversations were called Bear Chats, and I had signed up for one in the second week of September.

On the night of my Bear Chat, I confidently knocked on my RA’s door, and she welcomed me in. She asked me about how my transition was going so far, and what I was getting involved in outside of class. I shared that my experience so far had been relatively good and that I was unsure of what I wanted to do, followed by an awkward pause. I then brought up to her that I was interested in getting involved in Hall Association, the student government body in our residence hall. She excitedly encouraged me to apply, sharing how wonderful an opportunity it was, and then shooed me out of the room to complete the application, which was due that night. Little did I know that this conversation would shape much of my experience as a student and would launch me into involvement in Residential Life on campus. read more

Falling in Love with the Cal Flags

This year, I have the honor of being in charge of the Cal flags as a Director of Athletics in the UC Rally Committee. You might have seen them around campus either at a game, a rally, or performing with band at various other spirit events. When I got this position, I really didn’t know it was going to entail. I knew it would be a lot of time at sporting events. I didn’t expect to fall in love with the flags this much.

I remember the moment during my first game this year when the Cal Band played a Cal song and I saw the the Cal flags lifted into the air, waving simultaneously from all corners of the stadium. Then a flag waver ran down the end zone with the bear flag flying above to celebrate that we had scored. It was an amazing feeling to see everything I had worked on come to fruition in that moment. read more

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

About once a week I try something different and break from my routine. Maybe I decide to skip a class (don’t worry, I watch the recorded lecture online!), I walk the longer route to school, or I go to a cafe that is a little off the beaten path. Being in college is so fun, so fleeting, but it doesn’t help that as our schedules fill up, we forget to stop and smell the roses. Yet, I think the most precious moments that give personality to Berkeley are all the moments that happened by chance when I took the path less traveled. read more

My Love of McCone Hall

The view from the southwest corner of the fifth floor balcony, McCone Hall

From a quick count of a campus map, you’ll see that there are over fifty stand-alone buildings on UC Berkeley’s main campus. Among these are libraries, lecture halls, buildings with research centers and labs, ten story buildings, tiny buildings, and buildings famous for getting students lost in their mazes (I’m talking to you Dwinelle Hall…). From most points on campus you can spot buildings spanning several eras of architecture, sometimes with ages separated by a hundred years or more. Currently the oldest building on campus is South Hall, built in 1873, and the newest is Berkeley Way West built in 2018. read more

From Not Even Having a Disaster Kit to Teaching a Class on Disaster Management

I have never been someone who was particularly concerned by the prospect of disaster, “natural” or not. Growing up in California, first in Southern California and later in the Eastern Sierra Nevada mountain range, I was often told about my danger of being caught in an earthquake or a wildfire, but this was something that seemed far away, as if it would never actually happen to be me personally, despite knowing the risks. If you also can admit to this, I am here to tell you that I now teach a class on disaster management and can say we are certainly not alone!

I would like to put a disclaimer here: disaster management is not my passion and it does not need be yours either. I study agro-ecology- essentially how to produce food in an environmentally and socially robust way- and have no plan to go into disaster management in the long term. However, I am thoroughly of the belief that disaster management is relevant not only to all of us as people who could experience disasters, but also as people working in fields that all have their own role to play in disasters and their management. If you have a field you work in, I could link it in some way to disaster management- that is my guarantee.

So how did an agro-ecology student come to teach a course in Disaster Management at the #1 public university in the world? An awesome program called Democratic Education at Cal allows students to teach pass/no pass courses that are usually 1 or 2 units to their fellow students. These courses,  also known as DeCals, can be found on the DeCal website and all have course codes that can be entered into Cal Central to enroll in them like any other class. They are usually low stress, take place at night so as not to interfere with normal class schedules, and can be on serious topics like mine, on a skill like baking, ballet, or parkour, or on a unique topic like Super Mario Smash Bros or Harry Potter. I took the class I teach now last spring and at the end of the semester, my then facilitator asked me to join him in teaching it in the fall- I agreed and we spent all summer working on the syllabus and the new direction we wanted the class to go.

I agreed to co-facilitate the class not because it was my life’s passion but because I saw an awesome opportunity to learn how to teach, to learn from my students and my co-facilitator, and to get people thinking about disasters in a new light. The course changed the way I think about disasters- it made me see how intersectional  disaster management is and how the management of disasters is relevant to all of us as people who can be affected by them and as people who can play a role in them, for the better or worse.

I am now proud to add information I have learned about disaster management to class room conversations in my other classes, and when I do, I reflect on how awesome it is to be teaching such a course at a world renowned university- you never know what opportunities Berkeley will open up for you or what wild new thing you could be doing six months from now, but I know its always interesting- and I can confidently add that as my second guarantee.