I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know about the stereotypes surrounding Berkeley students. I was so afraid to be surrounded by hyper competitive people who would do anything to come out on top, tearing others down for their own personal gain. And I was met by the opposite. The people I met were the most genuine and helpful individuals I had ever gotten to work with. Any plea for help was met by an overwhelmingly positive response and that stereotype I was once frightened by melted away.
How can I be successful at Cal as an Out of State Student? It’s always difficult coming to a new foreign area and fitting right in. What are some things you can take advantage of prior to coming to Cal as well as in your first few weeks? If you’re curious, then you’re in the right spot! I’ll tell you all the strategies you need to successfully kick off your 1st year at UC Berkeley.
THINGS TO DO PRIOR TO COMING TO UC BERKELEY:
Once you receive your acceptance letter from Cal, you should think about the field of interest you want to pursue during your undergraduate years. For me, since my passion was in the sciences, I decided to pursue a major in Molecular Cell Biology. For many other students, you probably won’t know until you take your classes. That’s totally fine! You can spend your entire first year just learning about yourself and the type of subjects that interest you. However, I do suggest that you look back on your high school (if you’re an incoming freshman) or community college (if you’re a transfer) years and see what class you were the most passionate about! Knowing this information will give you a head start and pave a clear path for your 4 years at Cal.
It may surprise you to know that unlike many other colleges, Berkeley students typically only stay their first year in the on-campus dorms. Because of the school’s special situation within the city of Berkeley, many upperclassmen choose to live in on-campus or even private apartment style housing. I never would have expected to find myself living with 13 of my closest friends this year, but with the conclusion of this semester, I have really taken some time to reflect on what makes or breaks a successful household. So here’s my list of do’s and don’ts for living off campus!
Online learning has its pitfalls, its challenges, and its benefits. My younger sister, for instance, is grateful for the online semester because she now has the opportunity to take all of her “weeder” courses at UCLA online with open notes. Generally it’s been a bit of a struggle for me. I miss connecting with classmates and professors and all that comes with it. The hustle and bustle of pushing past someone to get to your seat, the smell of coffee wafting through the classroom, even the over eager freshmen answering every question the professor asks are all small details I never thought I’d miss. I’d give anything to go back, so it’s been an ongoing process to find silver linings throughout all of this.
The one incredible thing about an online semester is that it, by its very nature, connects everyone to a global community. Professor Desiree Fields, who teaches my technological geography class, took full advantage of that fact this year. Several of our readings have come from scholars all across the world and almost every week we got to speak to at least one of them. Berkeley already has renowned faculty and a reputation that brings in people thrilled to talk to the students here. During in person classes, it just wasn’t always possible because they’d be in New York or China or elsewhere. Now, with the online semester, we’re able to connect with just about anyone from any corner of the world: all we have to do is ask!
My favorite guest speakers came just a couple weeks ago when we were discussing the idea of carceral geographies (prison geographies). This is a field that has a lot of contention and a lot of personal stake attached to it. Joining us in the classroom were Dr. Chris Gilliard and Dr. Brian J Jefferson, both of whom had written groundbreaking work on the topic. Simply through reading their work, I was astonished and had my world view challenged. When they came in to talk to us, it didn’t end up being a lecture from them, as I had thought it would be. Instead, it was a dialogue between all of us students, my professor, and the two scholars. We engaged with each other, challenging the ways in which we all thought and pushing towards a greater understanding. We talked about the consequences of prison surveillance and how urban spaces are more readily surveilled, which pushes former criminals to rural spaces. They asked us questions about California and Prop 25, which recently was on the state ballot. It was nothing short of astonishing.
Now, it’s not like guest speakers are anything new at UC Berkeley. Berkeley professors often bring in their colleagues or industry folks to talk about their work. But never before had I seen it be so consistent or reach such a global level. Engaging with scholars outside your geographic area used to be a huge ordeal but now it’s as easy as them clicking on a link and popping in. It’s a lesson that should be taken beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. We have these online tools at our disposal that make it so easy to engage in dialogue to push forward academic thought. I’m thrilled that I have been able to be apart of this and hope that this engagement will continue beyond the forced online realm and into the future.
What should you DO and DON’T DO as a Cal Pre-Med Student? If you’re curious, then you’re in the right spot! In order to be successful in your path to medical school while attending UC Berkeley, then you will need to establish certain habits that you may or may not already have.
Before we dive into the DOs and DON’Ts of being a Cal Pre-Med, take some time to jot down a few ideas of your own. What do you think you should DO in these 4 years to be successful as an academic student? What do you think you should totally AVOID during these 4 years? Now, match your ideas to this guide and see how much of them align!
When I tell people that I’m planning to major in Human Geography, they tend to respond in a few different ways. The most common, “Oh that’s so cool! I don’t know too many people who study that.” The second response starts out like the first, but after it’s sunk in for a few minutes, a perplexed look crosses their face and they ask me, “So can you just clarify what exactly Geography is?” And the last, my personal favorite, “Wow, I loved learning where all the countries are on the map when I was in elementary school!” I bite my tongue when I hear this — refraining from responding by asking if they really think I’m spending four years and an entire college tuition on memorizing maps — and try to remind myself that Human Geography is a unique major, so it’s not their fault they haven’t heard of it.