Let’s face it: Cal is a pretty big place. With over 30,000 undergrads and over 11,000 grad students, the moment that you step on campus can make you feel a little small. Or, at least, that’s what I thought. The summer before my freshman year when I was nervously awaiting my college adventures to begin I was plagued with fears of “Will I make friends?” while consoling myself with thinking “It’s okay to hermit in your dorm room for the entire year, right?”
I began to orchestrate a plan to ensure my “social success.” I spent hours prowling on student organizations’ websites and facebook pages, determined to find my own little community at Cal. There seemed to be so many options and I wondered how I could possibly narrow it down. I decided on a strategy of starting with one and expanding from there.
Flash forward many weeks, and it is the first week of the academic year. My college experience had gotten off to a fairly smooth start as I felt close with my friends that I had made during Golden Bear Orientation. All I needed now was at least one student organization to push me in the right direction. I had decided on Ballet Company at Berkeley, and as a dancer of 15 years, I excitedly prepped for the auditions.
The day had finally come for me to dip my toes into the Berkeley dance community. I tied my long hair up into a high bun, put on my favorite leotard, and entered the studio space in Eshleman Hall. As I put on my ballet shoes, I looked around in wonder of the other people in the room. Were they just as nervous as I was?
Many of the dancers around me were giving each other giant hugs with bright smiles, energetically embracing their friends that they had been parted from for the whole of the summer. Afraid to talk to these girls who seemed to be so carefree and happy, I approached the barre to sit next to another girl who looked just as nervous as I felt.
This turned out to be one of the most auspicious moments of my college career.
I began to make a little bit of small talk with her and we realized that we had a lot in common. The more we chatted, the more I felt like I belonged. Another freshman soon joined us and it felt like the three of us were meant to be an inseparable unit who would always be there for one another.
The class proceeded with only a few slight hiccups, but I suddenly realized that I wasn’t nervous anymore. I knew that whether or not I made it, I had made new friends and ventured outside of my comfort zone. After the class, we exchanged phone numbers and social media handles, wondering if we would ever encounter one another again.
That day, we all made it into the performing company. But, most importantly, we made it into an thriving community of dancers who could relate to our problems and comfort us when we stumbled. From that day on, I looked forward to the parts of my week when I could go back to that studio and dance with my best friends. I had finally found a place where I truly belonged. I had finally found a place where I could be me.
There are literally thousands of clubs on campus that can provide a home away from home for students. During that first semester as I navigated living on my own, classes, and new student organizations, Ballet Company became my rock, stabilizing me as the world around me changed. Organizations just like it are one of the things that I love most about Cal as they provide avenues for student creativity, cooperation,and most importantly, friendship.