My college experience has been a sequence of serendipitous moments, each leading me to a better and brighter place. As I have spoken about in a previous blog post, the deciding factor that led me to Cal was a chance moment of looking up the motto for the College of Natural Resources. I love talking about my experience in that college as a Society & Environment major, how supportive and welcoming that environment has been for me. However, I would argue that the defining moment of my college experience was when I decided to pick up my second major, Geography.
Writer’s Note: I just wanted to share bits of wisdom I wish I could have said to myself at age 17, just as I was about to apply to college. I hope this is useful for y’all 🙂
Dear Kaelyn, age 17,
Wow have you got a lot ahead of you. I know you want out, to go as far away from home as you can, to get your own life. I know you think that you are so much more than your small town, which believe it or not you’ll miss. There is so much that I wish I could tell you. Let’s start with this.
As a College of Natural Resources Student, I am a simple woman. I like public transportation, sustainable energy, and Brown’s. This small on campus eatery in the middle of the College of Natural Resources area of campus, nestled between the Genetics and Plant Biology Building and Morgan Hall is the home of the best use of Flex Dollars. Flex Dollars are part of the on campus meal plans, the other portion being swipes to go into dining hall. Though as a sophomore I no longer have a meal plan, my freshman year palette was shaped by Brown’s. Locally sourced organic food and kombucha on tap are a staple of this wonderful, beautiful place.
While there are three Peet’s Coffee locations on campus, the one in Brown’s is the best. The lack of heavy foot traffic allows the baristas to put artistry and care into the drinks. I have yet to get a better cappuccino, best paired with a chocolate chunk cookie: my favorite four pm snack on Monday afternoons right before my freshman seminar.
I like, most of the people I know, miss Berkeley more than just about anything right now. One of my friends even jokingly asked once what body part I’d be willing to give up if it meant going back to Berkeley the next day: a leg, just toes, a single eye… an absolutely arbitrary argument about complete nonsense. The point being we yearn to go back, to see the campanile, to lounge on memorial glade on a warm day, even to spend a long day studying in Main Stacks. Berkeley is a very special place, it is our home, it brings us together and makes us feel whole.
Well, it’s that time of the year again: college decisions are out. My younger sister just went through all of the lows and highs associated with this process and I have been fortunate enough to be home during all of this, sharing in both her excitement and disappointment. As a current second year student, it was a great opportunity to reflect on my own journey to Cal.
I don’t remember a whole lot about opening the decision, other than the numbness that came with it: neither a rejection nor an acceptance. I’d wanted to go to Cal for as long as I could remember and to be waitlisted almost felt like a slap in the face at the time. But I now know that it was the best thing that could have happened to me.
At Cal, the desire to be the best you can be is simply part of the culture: to do more, to be more, to do everything, to be everything. It is part of what makes going here so incredible. Everyone around you is always up to big, amazing things, showing you the endless possibilities that Cal has to offer. We all want to do everything, but that can often lead to feeling like we must do it on our own: but nobody’s superman, and nobody gets to where they are without a helping hand.
I have always prided myself on my independence and strong work ethic. I take on challenge after challenge, pushing myself as hard as I can to get to the next rung on the ladder. I am not at all unique in this regard, but I have often found myself feeling isolated when I start to struggle. Many people will refer to the “sophomore slump” and while I do not personally believe that going into sophomore year inherently leads to disaster, I have noticed my own moral deteriorating and my workload increasing. Recent struggles in academics, personal life, and leadership roles have left me toeing the line between independence and self enforced isolation.