What You Need to Survive at Berkeley

Berkeley is daunting to a perspective student, I know first hand. After the initial rush of getting accepted, I was immediately filled with dread. How was little old me going to survive such a big and prestigious school? Spoiler alert, I did in fact survive and I’m here to tell you how you can make life at Berkeley a little less scary, both academically and socially.

My first recommendation would be to use a planner. Whether that be digital, physical, or both, keeping a planner has saved me from many missed assignments. Personally I use a physical and digital planner because I’m crazy. Especially now as everything is online, I’ve found piece of mind having all my assignments in one place so I can sty on top of my work. Every morning I sit down and I copy down my assignments and tasks from my digital planner into my physical one, so I can check them off as I go. Not to mention the serotonin you get from checking things off a checklist.

Another really important thing is to invest in a hand vacuum. Your dorm room carpet will be disgusting regardless of what you attempt and, not only are the vacuums the dorms offer are about 10 million years old but you’ll also have to cart it from the dorm office all the way up to your room, which speaking from experience is not the most fun. A clean space not only helps you focus on school work, but it also makes your room more inviting. No one wants to hang out in a dusty crusty room regardless of whether you’re living on or off campus. My roommate and I just bought our very own mini vacuum and I’ve never been happier with a purchase.

Get a good water bottle. Berkeley is on one giant hill, so half the day you’ll be making the trek up and the other half you’ll be stumbling down. There’s really not much more to it, all I can say is: hydrate or die-drate.

This one is a little bit more abstract, and for that I apologize but I am a philosophy major so what did you really expect? Make sure you bring a willing attitude. Be willing to try things and seek out communities you know you want to be a part of. Berkeley has something for everyone, whether that be firing a live canon at football games or joining Greek Life or hunting for bugs with an entomology club.  But the thing is, these opportunities won’t come to you, you have to seek them out. Finding a place here can seem daunting, but if you take that terrifying step into the unknown you’ll be surprised at what you find.

To step away from that metaphorical monstrosity, next I’d suggest talking to people in your classes. This was a life saver for me as I ended up making some really cool friends AND, this group I’m a part of right now is the only reason I’m not failing my class. Academically, it can really help to have a study group, especially if you can’t make it to office hours. Socially, it helps you expand your circle, meet new people and get acquainted hypothetically with other students who have the same major as you. It took me a whole year to find other philosophy majors that were my age and I love them all.

In reality, you won’t be “surviving” at Berkeley, you’ll be living here. I used to be like Rapunzel, wondering when would my life begin. My coming to Berkeley was her jumping out of her tower window and descending via her hair to the grass below. Berkeley isn’t some terrifying place that beats students to a pulp, it’s an amazing place to grow, learn, and better yourself.

Last year, when I was officially alone on campus with my family having returned to Southern California, I felt so small and unsure. I remember sitting down in front of the Campanile and staring up at the 307 foot structure, listening to the bells ring for the first time. I told myself that day that I would survive, as if being a student here was some kind of challenge, and in some ways it is. But I’ve made a new life for myself here, and those fears and doubts have subsided.

Sure, a vacuum and water bottle will help, and so will being brave and talking to strangers, but when it comes down to it, the best way to survive here is to believe you belong and embrace being a golden bear. That’s the best advice I can give, and maybe if you listen you can do more than survive.

Bridget Bernet

Author: Bridget Bernet

Howdy! My name is Bridget, I am a freshman here at UC Berkeley, intended to double major in philosophy and rhetoric. I love all forms of writing, which is why I decided to write for Bear Talk :) and I'm so excited to share my perspective on this amazing campus. I've only been here for one full semester so far, and I already know this place is my home. From cheering on the sports teams to studying in Moses Hall, every moment here is a special one, and I plan on documenting it all. Go Bears!