As a Campus Ambassador, my job encourages me to share my personal stories about myself and Berkeley’s wonderful campus. Whether I’m sharing our campus traditions, how I met my best friends at my campus job, or the reasons why I call Berkeley home, you can always find me telling stories to whoever will listen. However, before starting my campus job, telling these personal stories scared me and I resisted telling them to my Berkeley friends all together. Going into freshman year, I expected people to act uninterested towards the more personal details of my life, to dismiss me if my stories failed to reflect a common character archetype, and for people to switch the subject back to themselves when convenient. Thanks to my campus job, that mindset failed to last for long.
When I started my job as a Berkeley Campus Ambassador I quickly received praise for memorizing the proper facts and enthusiastically explaining the Berkeley campus, however, my mentors offered me one key piece of advice to help improve my tours: to share stories about my Berkeley experience. At first, I remained apprehensive, incorporating my personal stories slowly into my tour routine as a potentially negative response still scared me. Yet to my surprise, people reacted more enthusiastically to my tours than ever and as a result, my fears started to dissipate and I became more comfortable sharing my stories. Overall, I found that people listened to and appreciated my stories, cherishing what my perspective brought to the campus conversation.
With my new confidence that I gained in my campus job, I decided to apply what I had learned about storytelling to my life as a whole, telling stories as often as I could. Now that I have told countless stories to my friends and acquaintances I’ve realized a number of important ideas. First, stories help build stronger relationships. When my friends and I share vulnerable stories we build trust as we create an environment that excludes judgment or ego. This helps us share our true selves and how our perspectives affect our thinking, instead of repeating the typical culture influenced identities or talking points. Second, you can use your storytelling skills to help you solve your internal conflicts. Personally, when I need to search my feelings or come up with a creative solution to a problem, I simply retell the story in my mind or in writing. This gives me a fresh perspective on my problems, seeing them through a more peaceful, unbiased lense so that I can respond to them in a way that stays true to my values. In addition, this internal re-storytelling helps me build a positive self-image as I can reframe my problems and experiences with a more positive understanding. Third, telling stories presents a way to test out ideas on many people at once. I found that the more stories I told, the more feedback that I received, then the more developed my ideas and values became. My experiences led me to realize that Berkeley students enjoy challenging their ideas against ideas from people with different ideas or perspectives. Overall, I enabled all of this positive self-growth simply because of my gradual realization that Berkeley students and faculty want to hear my voice and encourage my individuality.
As all of us enter into the fall, either on the Berkeley campus or virtually over zoom, I urge us to encourage others to share their stories. We all know the personal benefits of telling stories, so let’s help others in our community realize the same benefits. Let’s try to understand our peers’ character and beliefs by asking deeper questions and giving them an open space to share, absent of judgment or ego. Let’s seek to understand another’s defining experiences before asking them to understand us. Finally, let’s celebrate ideas and perspectives that differ from the norm as they bring a valuable diversity of ideas onto our campus. By committing ourselves to these ideals, we can build upon our campus’ already infectious culture in the way that the outside world will look onto impressed by how golden bears foster a community of love and diverse ideas.
As always, Fiat Lux and Go Bears!