“Being average here is amazing” is the best advice I’ve gotten in college.
It’s what my high school best friend, Bianca, told me the first time I got overwhelmed by academics a few weeks into my time at UC Berkeley. I only applied to Berkeley because Bianca came here one year before me, and visiting her in her freshman year intrigued me enough to apply, and then enroll at this special place.
As a campus ambassador, it is literally my job to share the best of Berkeley with you all. I am meant to stand tall and smile, to recount my most inspiring memories and moments at Berkeley. It is a dream job for me, since even before college I aspired to be a tour guide wherever I ended up. And many days the job is so easy and so dreamy, knowing I can make a small contribution to a student’s life-changing college decision.
The job isn’t always easy, however. Some days at Berkeley are admittedly brutal. As this is the only undergraduate institution I will attend, I will never know if my struggle is a testament to Berkeley’s rigor, to my major (chemistry), or if that’s just college being hard in general. In the hard weeks, it can be tough to get the pep in my step and sell Berkeley to visitors. I still do it because it’s all part of the job, but I can’t deny that there is a struggle which goes unseen between all the incredible facts and stories shared on the tour. You could consider it impostor syndrome, the feeling of not being good enough for this world-renowned institution.
But I’ll let you in on something else– I have heard from grad students and professors that share the same sentiment everyday on this campus. So perhaps that itching feeling that makes me question my belonging is just a product of going to a school so iconic, so brilliant, that it creates an unattainable standard that us high-achieving Golden Bears strive to reach.
And this is where “being average is amazing” comes to play. Positive self-talk has been a productive way for me to exit the depths of imposter syndrome. I remind myself that scoring average on a midterm (or even below average, cmon!), taking a reasonable course load, and putting my best effort into my activities is not only enough, but honestly kind of amazing with the reputation that Berkeley holds. While it might sound like tooting our own horn, I think it is a necessary reminder for students and professors who put too much pressure on themselves to be excellent.
Last week, Berkeley won two Nobel prizes with Professor Reinhardt in Physics and Professor Doudna in Chemistry, essentially the highest award anyone can achieve. Instead of being intimidated by the fact that a professor in my department was a Nobel Laureate, I got an overwhelming feeling that I belong in the chemistry department, among all its greatness, and by attending class and being involved in research and the chemistry community, I am part of something truly amazing.