The month of March is a particularly trying time for high school seniors, and with my younger brother and his friends all biting their nails to find out where they’ll be accepted, I feel like I’m experiencing the confusion of college all over again. There’s the typical questions of what to major in and if dining hall food is any good, but also the more nervous, keep-you-up-at-night ones: will I make friends? Will I fit in? What if I don’t do college the “right” way?
As the oldest child in my family and the first to leave the nest for college, I definitely was worried about all these questions coming to Berkeley. Leaving the home I’d known for years and growing up is scary. After hearing about college life from my friends in grades above me and watching movies taking place on college campuses, I thought I had to follow these images that formed in my head in order to have the perfect story. And when I told eager adults that I would be heading to the Bay to Berkeley, I felt the pressures to strive to do everything I could to live up to the expectations of a prestigious school.
But what I’ve found in my almost two years here is that everyone has their own story that they shape to make their college experience into what they want it to be. With over 31,000 undergraduates at Cal, there is no “right” way to be a college student. But we still all can come together under the Berkeley experience.
My freshman method, in an effort to follow the “rules” of college, was to join every club I could, chat with every person I sat next to in class, and find an on-campus job to increase my bond with the university. And while I did make friends and find my community, sophomore me now knows that this isn’t the only way to do it. People keep their friends from high school, and find new ones. They can change their identity, acquire new interests, and grow with their experiences. And each path has varying turns, peaks, and valleys that build up a college student.
Berkeley’s variety of experiences allows every student to create their own image of college that doesn’t have to adhere to the traditional life in the movies. Being able to share these adventures with others, young and old, and learn about others’ journeys is one of the greatest parts of Cal life.
I’ve found the best caramel latte, mastered BART, and bought blue books. I’ve had my late nights at concerts and Moffitt Library. I’ve cheered at football games and at good paper grades. So at my halfway point, I’m feeling pretty confident in my Berkeley college experience.
So to my scared seniors in high school, there’s no singular narrative: no typical path, no “best” major, no classic cafe to study at. No matter how many high school to college tips there are on the internet, everyone’s adventure is different. While the characteristics that make up this episode of life vary, we all at Cal share a drive and a passion for learning and will always respond with a loud “Go Bears!”.