From Past, Present, and Beyond: My Berkeley Story

First-generation. Low-income. Student of color. I fit the common profile of an uncommon background of many Berkeley students. I grew up in a single-parent household with a mom that knew very little English. I knew nothing about college applications or financial aid. Statistically speaking, the odds should have been against my favor.

Thinking back to high school, I recall moments when I would hear friends and parents “look down” at my school. Why? My high school had often been regarded as “unsafe” due to the historic number of fights and police presence. My high school had often been regarded as a place you would not be able to succeed because we had historically ranked near the bottom in the school district. I remember how from middle school to high school, many of my peers transferred because their parents wanted to avoid sending them to my high school. I remember how after a district-wide awards ceremony hosted at my high school, my mom had told me how another parent had grudgingly complained how she felt so “unlucky” that her child had to attend my school.  read more

Ready for the Real World

I distinctly remember the frenzy in February of my freshman year when it came time to find housing for the coming year. Most private apartments around Berkeley do a 1 year lease starting in June so that it matches with the school year. That means that come springtime, the early bird gets the worm to find a good housing deal for the next year.

It’s always a bit dramatic to sort out the roommates. Are you looking to room with 1, 2, 3, or 4 others? Are you okay to have a double occupancy room, or are you going for a single? What’s your budget, and are you willing to compromise? All these are questions that I tackled as I sprinted from my classes to get to open houses in time, only to see 40 other freshmen also lined up, trying to rent out the same apartment. Unlike other colleges, it’s actually significantly cheaper to live off-campus and housing is very limited for upperclassmen, so the majority of students do not live in the dorms after freshman year. read more

How to Develop Successful Habits for Online School

The transition to online classes has been difficult for many. It’s not easy to stay focused during quarantine…so how do we maintain our “A game?” If you’d like to know the secrets in developing successful habit, then stick around!

If you’re like me and many other students, then you’ve probably experienced zoom fatigue. Staring at zoom or your computer for extended periods of time is not sustainable for maximizing your retention rate in learning. We’re not robots..but rather humans that need to have a proper work-life balance! read more

23 Essays: How To Write One Essay Every Week

This semester, I as a rhetoric and philosophy double major have to write 23 essays. As of now, I’ve done 13 with 10 to go. At this point I feel like it’s a key aspect of my personality, “Hi my name is Bridget and I’m writing 23 essays this semester” which seems more daunting than it really is.

I have an essay that gets assigned on Wednesdays due every Sunday, which I appreciate being a constant in my life. So that’s a minimum of one essay a week which honestly is doable. However, where the challenge comes is my other classes where I’m assigned longer essays less frequently. Last week I had to write 5 essays, but this week I only have to write two. The fluctuation is really the hardest part, but I now consider myself an expert on timing an essay and going about it productively. read more

Being Home Again

Moving from LA to Berkeley is quite a big distance even though both places are within the same state. California can practically be its own country if it wanted to, but this is beyond my point. Being able to miss someone is not defined by a long distance. All it takes is a moment alone. 

This was something I had realized when I moved to Berkeley to go to college. Now you might be wondering that this blog is going to turn into a movie trope story about being grateful for being with your loved ones. I have to admit, it is part of the story, but not all of it. This is more of a revelation. read more

No need to lament over learning a new language!

Bem-vindo, Bienvenue, Bienvenidos, Welcome. These words in their respective languages all signal to the listener that the space that they are in is hospitable, that the speaker is greeting the listener in a positive manner. This is a common introduction I have heard during my time at Cal learning different languages. I knew I wanted to study another language that would not only be useful for me when I travel, but also in my career field.

So first, I decided that I would strengthen my Spanish knowledge and would learn Portuguese since there are already many similarities between the two. It was during the summer of 2020, however, that by curiosity I ended up taking an introduction to French class and that truly woke me up to the beauty and intensity of language learning. I was shown that it wasn’t as easy as learning the way to make a sentence and remembering words for “computer” – l’ordinateur – or “excellent female singer” – la chanteuse- (my French instructor had a very healthy adoration for Whitney Houston). Already having an understanding of a romance language did help me a bit when I first started to take French and Portuguese classes, but there was a limit as to how much my Spanish knowledge could help me. This is what I want to point out to you, even with past experience or understanding similar characteristics of a related language, learning a new language is hard. There’s no way to sugar coat it. It takes a lot of dedication and work and sometimes it feels like you just can’t grasp some concepts, but that is okay! The route to learning a language, especially in college, is rough and rugged and messy and incomplete. It is not always about remembering how to translate every word you can think of to the language you are learning, but more of understanding how to express your thoughts to someone else. When I first started my French and Portuguese adventures, my instructors immediately started to immerse us in the language by speaking to us in it. It was difficult and slow, but the more we began to learn about the language structure and learn words, we began to be able to make small steps in our individual journeys. You too can do this. No matter what level of any language you may be at, it takes practice and immersion to get the hang of it. My instructors also told me that it is not a linear path and my journey has proven that to me. There may be moments when it may feel difficult and like everything is getting harder, but that is still a part of your progress because after that it becomes much easier, until the next mountain you may need to climb. However, you should not force yourself to be perfect in every way when learning a language. Being fluent does not mean you know every little verb conjugation or every form of the subjunctive, it means being able to communicate with others who are a part of the language community. read more

Why Office Hours Are Important!

As the end of my third year of college comes rushing towards me, I have given some reflection on my time at Cal. The memories I’ve made with my friends, random adventures I’ve been on, and the brilliant people I’ve met along the way. One of my favorite things about university that isn’t talked about enough might surprise you: office hours.

If you don’t already know, office hours are a time for you to meet with your professors or graduate student instructors (GSIs) outside of class time. Sound intimidating? That’s the secret– it isn’t! I’m not here to give you the same speech you’ll get 1000 times in college: “We highly recommend you go to office hours” or “office hours are great for asking questions about the class.” My goal is to tell you my experiences with office hours and the most unexpected results: friendship with professors and graduate students! read more

Connecting Through Food

This week marks one year since classes at UC Berkeley went online, and since then, it has been difficult to connect with students outside of my apartment. Over the last year, I have learned to appreciate spending time with my housemates, especially cooking dinner with them. Even though things have been online, all of our schedules are still very busy with classes, work, and various student organizations. However, we still make time for what we call “family dinners” at least four days a week, where we all help cook a meal and sit down together at the table to eat.

Since we don’t find ourselves having hours and hours to cook everyday, we’ve decided to cook in bulk. What do I mean by this? When we cook, we cook big. Our mac and cheese nights should provide enough leftovers for four people for a week, although it only lasts us three days. (What can I say? We all love mac and cheese). You wouldn’t think that two pounds of pasta, a pound of cheese, a pound of bacon, a pound of sausage, plus the sauce would vanish so quickly. But alas, it tastes so good and it never seems to last.

Some people, my family included, tend to be surprised by our giant meals. They ask, “Why do four people feel the need to cook ten full pork chops for dinner?” Well, we’ve discovered it just makes sense and here’s why.

First, it’s basically the same effort and level of difficulty to cook large portions vs. small portions. You’re still cutting the same vegetables, boiling water, doing dishes, and all the other steps in making the meal. If you’re already making food, why not just make a lot more? It just makes sense.

Second, when we make large portions, we get leftovers for days. Since we do have days every week when we’re really busy and can’t make dinner, leftover pork chops, fried rice or mac and cheese really comes in handy. It’s good planning!

Third, it’s become a sort of game, making bets about if the food will actually fit into one pan, or if a second pan will be required (A second pan usually ends up being needed). We always end up laughing the whole time at whoever is trying to stir all the ingredients in the nearly overflowing pan. We’ve made it fun and challenging, while spending more time together.

My only caution for cooking a lot of food at once is making sure it all gets eaten. As wonderful as it is to have leftovers, after a few days, those vegetables start to look a little sad and the meat starts to turn a little questionable. Lucky for me though, my housemates and I have had no problem eating all the food in a timely manner. Who says you can’t have mac and cheese for breakfast?

Cooking in a big way with my housemates has become one of my favorite things to do during the pandemic. I highly recommend having really big “family dinners” together. read more

Being Undecided: How I Found My Major

“What are you studying” is a familiar tune to all those entering college. While this question does not exceed words, it carries a weight with it. Upon entering Cal, I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to study.

I want to preface this by saying in high school I didn’t envision life beyond it. Come college application season, I thought that college was just a glorified version of high school, I mean, what the heck was a major anyways? At the time, I loved that school gave us a taste in every subject, so imagine the shock I received when I was told I could only pick one to two fields to study.

Fast forward to starting my time at Cal– I remember feeling overwhelmed as it seemed everyone knew exactly what they wanted to study. When meeting people and discussing majors they wouldn’t miss a beat when discussing theirs.

I decided to force myself into looking through out the majors and trying to find one that interested me. Recalling that I enjoyed my science classes, I tried out various biology majors. My second semester I took “Sociology 3AC” and left the first class in awe. However, I decided that would be my “fun” class and continued to trudge through the bio pre-requisites.

While I enjoyed biology, I kept yearning for the content that motivated me to question the status quo, as my first sociology class gave me. I looked into Marine Science, Environmental Engineering, French, Linguistics, and Media Studies as potential majors. All the while it felt as though everyone around me knew their path in life.I kept stressing myself out for not having a major decided and almost rushed into declaring one just to get it over with. It wasn’t until the Spring of 2020 that I finally decided to take another Sociology class, and it once again felt like home.

This past semester I declared Sociology. This moment that I built up in my head as the turning point in my college career, happened unceremoniously as I filled out a form and received an email confirmation. While I felt like I was the only one going through this, when catching up with friends over Zoom I learned that some of them went through a similar journey. It was reassuring to know that not everyone has their lives figured out, and that it’s okay to change your major.

When talking to the occasional non-social sciences student, I’ll get asked “what do you even do with a soc major?”. A very valid question, and one that came to me as I veered back and forth between sticking with biology or sociology. This lead me to an important realization: your major does not define your career path. While being a Sociology major, I’ve completed the requirements to apply to medical school. Sociology affects just about every aspect of life, as it IS the study of society, and can be implemented in many fields. As my peers are applying to jobs and I’m beginning to feel the pressure of applying, this journey to my major has taught me that there is no one set path. It can be polarizing to feel like the odd one out, but this path to finding (and loving) my major has taught me that in due time we all find our interests.

I hope that those of you out there that are still unsure what they want to study feel slightly more comforted after reading through this. Take it from someone who took a little longer to find their passion: study what makes you passionate and remember that you are so much more than your major! read more

Squeezing the Most out of my Last Virtual Semester

As I near graduation, it’s hard to pick a favorite memory, school year, or class. But, I’m not quite looking back yet, I’m still looking at my last co

uple months to make sure I fit in everything I want to while I still can. I still have two full months and I want to enjoy it as much as I can, but it’s hard to know how to fit in as much of the Berkeley experience as possible, when there’s nothing in person. I have decided on 3 main things to focus on for the rest of the semester to make sure I enjoy the last little bit of my time at Berkeley. read more