The power of a Berkeley education

Before beginning my education at Berkeley, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to pursue in life. I was certain about my eagerness to enter into the field of politics following my college years, and in order to do so, I committed myself to majoring in Political Science starting my first semester at Berkeley to put me on track toward a political career. I was so adamant about the fact that I was destined to pursue Political Science that I didn’t stop for a second to think about how my 17-year-old self could possibly know anything about who I would be and what I wanted to do five, ten, or even fifteen years down the line. The Campanile on a beautiful, sunny day in Berkeley.

However, being admitted to the College of Letters and Sciences meant that I was required to complete their seven-course breadth thread and take classes across different areas of study in order to show students the many paths they could take within higher education while turning us into well-rounded, knowledgeable, and holistic world citizens. At first, I was extremely frustrated with the seven-course breadth requirement, as it completely crushed the vow I made to myself after graduating high school that I would never take a math or science class again. Complying with the requirement, this past semester I enrolled in both a physical science class and a biological science class, silently saying goodbye to any possibility of getting straight A’s for that semester. 

While taking two science breadths in one semester might sound daunting to some students, I believe that taking these classes simultaneously helped me realize my genuine interest in the science field that I had yet to explore in high school. I was fascinated by the depth of the topics I was learning and touched by my professors’ personal experiences in the field, as well as the research they had completed. My professors lectured about climate change in a way that moved me deeply and inspired me to act; the more I learned about how our climate crisis is unfolding and the minimal time we have to change Earth’s future before reaching a tipping point, I realized that pursuing any other future aside from working to help the planet would be unfulfilling for me, especially given the deep knowledge I have gained from my Berkeley education only with freshman year under my belt. 

This is the power of a Berkeley education: one class has the power to change the course of your future career and open your eyes to fields of study that you never knew you could become passionate about. I am thankful for Berkeley’s dedication to creating holistic students who are knowledgeable about all spheres of intellect, as my interdisciplinary education has allowed me to explore topics out of my comfort zone that have pushed my boundaries as a student and thinker. Berkeley has taught me to be open-minded to pursuing new areas of study and has built in the curriculum in its undergraduate education to allow me to do so. The classes you will take at Berkeley will move you on emotional and personal levels, and you might even be inspired enough to change life paths altogether. Although I am already reconsidering my major path, I am not even a sophomore yet—I have no idea where my Berkeley education will lead me, but I’m excited to find out. 

Author: Sydney Hilbush

Hello! My name is Sydney Hilbush and I am a freshman at UC Berkeley majoring in Political Science and minoring in journalism. I am involved with an array of clubs on campus including Greek Life, Sage Tutoring, and Surfrider, and outside of school I love hiking, backpacking, and spending my days on the beach.