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.

Now that I am approaching the end of my time at Berkeley, I find myself in a similar nostalgic position. In no way am I disappointed in how I spent my time at Berkeley, but rather I am thankful for how special these past four years have been. What makes the departure from college even harder is knowing how far I have come, and thinking about what kind of person I was coming into school. I had ambition, I loved those around me, and I was curious, but Berkeley gave me a confidence and appreciation for life that I hadn’t really developed before. Before I knew it, I was on the other side of the equation, looking back at all of the subliminal things that helped me become a more stable, capable individual.

Looking back on the journey that I took, it’s difficult to say that I would really spend my time differently, because I am thrilled with the hurdles I have overcome and how I have adapted because of them. However at the same time, I would tell myself to take leaps of faith more often, and not be afraid of prioritizing my own mental health and passions. I would tell myself to take a step back, and have faith that every misstep brings you closer to figuring out who you are. I would tell myself that there will never be a time during college where you’re completely sure of who you are or what you want to do, and that’s ok. As a senior, I have realized that there is still so much about myself that I have yet to figure out, and I know that future changes will probably only bring more confusion. However, I would tell myself that confusion is good, and uncertainty helps you grow. It’s natural to question yourself, and it’s natural to feel unsure about the direction of your major, your relationships, your passions, and your future. Over these past four years, I’ve learned that life is always uncertain, but what matters is your ability to be okay with not knowing: to be resilient and willing to adapt to changing conditions, and letting your own image of yourself change naturally.

Lastly, I would tell myself to be kind to my own mind and body. Looking back on what I have done during my time at Berkeley, I can’t help but smile and feel proud of my progress. However, I know that much of that progress stems from pressuring myself and and pushing myself to do more, which at times has been both healthy and unhealthy. For much of my life I held myself to a high standard, which opened up so many opportunities, but put stress on my own mental health. Often times I forgot to be as understanding to myself as I had been to others, and I always wanted to stretch myself as much as I could to produce as much as I could. If I had the chance, I would tell my younger self to take more time to focus on my own development, and appreciate what I HAVE been able to actually do. Without losing my drive and desire to be active in my communities, I would tell myself to give more credit to my own efforts, and take pride in what I have done.

Many of these ideas stem from my natural development at Berkeley, and I feel like the stress, success, and failure at Berkeley has taught me to be proud and act independently. I have learned to be kinder to myself and have faith in the positivity of the future, and know that these four years will live as a unique bubble of time in my life that I’ll look back on and smile.

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Author: Sarah Dey

Hey everyone! My name is Sarah Dey and I am currently a senior majoring in Architecture and minoring in Spanish Language and Literature! I am both a Campus Ambassador and a College of Environmental Design Ambassador, and I am the co-founder of a student-run design collective that aims to create community driven, innovative design projects that are geared towards social good and environmental responsibility. In my free time I love to ski, travel, and draw, and write about anything and everything. I was born and raised in the Bay Area, and I can tell you that there's no place I would rather be. GO BEARS <3