The Day I Finally Knew

When I began my Berkeley journey, the last thing on my mind were the friendships and connections I would build along the way.

As a freshman, I believed that I was here to learn, build skills, and graduate.

I spent High School so focused on the distant future that when it suddenly came, and college appeared on the horizon, I was completely unprepared. Growing up in California, an obvious action was applying to California’s two public university systems: UCs and CSUs. However, beyond those respective applications, I didn’t put in much thought to where I applied. At that time UC Berkeley wouldn’t even have made the top ten on a list of schools I could see myself attending, so when it became my best choice four months later, I was unsure what to do.

Unlike many potential undergraduates, I had never thought about attending UC Berkeley. Growing up in the Bay Area and planning to leave, I didn’t consider Cal until I had only a handful of days left to make what felt like the most important decision of my life. Talking it over with friends, family, and teachers I accepted my offer of admission but remained unsure. Many incoming students have known for months, or even years, that Berkeley is their “dream school”, but being a generally indecisive person, this just wasn’t me. 

Does that mean I shouldn’t have gone here? Absolutely not!

Today I can say with confidence that Berkeley was the best decision I have ever made.

Instead, I think my experience shows that it’s normal to have uncertainty about big life changes. Beginning my first semester here, I still wasn’t sure Cal had been the right choice so I buried my head in textbooks, studied, went to office hours, and applied to research positions all in an attempt to “get the most out of my time” and ignore any lingering doubts. But for me, it took a completely different kind of experience to finally realize what a good decision I had made.

Finding my place here came in pieces, but the day I finally knew I had one was Cal Day 2019. As a recently hired Campus Ambassador, I spent the whole day talking to visitors and incoming students. I rode a cable car around campus, and watched as enthusiastic families and new students saw Berkeley’s campus for the first time, something I had never experienced growing up nearby. Every visitor I spoke to was filled with questions, and I quickly realized that I was as excited as they were about Berkeley. 

That Cal Day, I realized that no test score or GPA would ever be what made me feel at home here. Instead, it would take all of those experiences and moments I had shared with visitors. That day I pointed out my favorite balcony on campus, told stories about dancing with Cal Ballroom, recommended the view from the Campanile, and spoke to dozens of potential students.

Becoming a Campus Ambassador meant representing Berkeley to the world, and in realizing how natural it felt for me to do this, I found something that made me feel at home here.

Although it might have taken me a bit longer than some of my friends, I began to find the things I loved most about Berkeley, and today I couldn’t be a prouder Golden Bear.

Author: Violet

I'm a Physical Geography major, Cal Ballroom dancer, an undergraduate researcher in berkeley's Quaternary Paleoecology Lab, a Campus Ambassador, former co-oper, and a third year student. Born and bred in Berkeley I'm a local and a lover of backpacking, science, and nature.