A Reflection on my Chinese Minor-ing Experience at Cal


As mentioned in a previous blog, one of my accomplishments of the 2021-2022 academic year was finishing up my Chinese minor; and although that journey began just to practice my Chinese and have something nice to put on my resume, that experience was so much more fun and rewarding than I could have ever imagined it to be.

In order to gain a Chinese minor, you must have a minimum of 5 letter-graded courses and 20 units and a GPA of at least a 2.0. These courses include Chinese 10B or equivalent (students with previous language experience may test out of this course due to prior knowledge and experience learning Chinese), three upper division Chinese courses, and two
East Asian Language and Culture (EALANG) electives selected from Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Mongolian, Tibetan, and other EA Lang courses. One 7A or 7B course may be substituted for one of the five courses, and EAP courses may be used to satisfy one of the electives; however, not all EAP courses will be approved for the minor. Please check with the advisor in advance. A non-EALC course (History, Anthropology) may also be used to satisfy one of the electives, but again please check with the advisor in advance! The classes I ended up taking for the minor were Chinese 100XA and 100XB (Advanced Chinese for Mandarin Speakers), Chinese7B (Introduction to Modern Chinese Literature and Culture), EALANG112 (​​The East Asian Sixties), and EALANG C128 (Buddhism in Contemporary Society).

The first class I took for my minor was Chinese 7B with Professor Andrew Jones. And that class was…. How do I put this… life-changing? I still remember going into class on the first day (right before the start of the pandemic) a little nervous and unsure of what this modern Chinese literature and culture class will entail, and if I was cultured enough to get through the class okay. And boy did I leave not only that day, but that class feeling fulfilled. We covered Chinese works from “The Romance of the Western Chamber” written in the Tang Dynasty to Mao Ze Dong’s “Little Red Book” during the beginning of China’s Communist Regime. To this day I don’t think I ever met anyone as passionate or interested in Chinese music, literature, and culture as Professor Jones. And he teaches in a way that infects his students with that same passion. It was thanks to this class that I discovered a new passion for older Chinese literature, and continued even after the course to explore other works that we didn’t get a chance to go through (the ancient plays are so poetic that they made some of the Shakespeare plays I’ve read sound like regular books).

The next class I took for the Chinese minor was EALANG112, or a course on the East Asian Sixties taught by Professor Jonathan Zwicker. Although his passion was very biased towards Japan, it was still super cool to learn so much about the historical and societal context of the climate in East Asia, and specifically Japan (and the fact that I got to watch movies for class for the first time was pretty cool too). And introducing me to my first Bruce Lee film is something I will always be grateful to Professor Zwicker for.

I ended my Chinese minor with my Advanced Chinese courses, as well as EALANG C128, or the course in Buddhism. The class on Buddhism in Contemporary Society was taught by Professor Blum, who I coincidentally bumped into and talked to for the first time while trying to turn in a paper for Chinese 7B. Although that course was a lot more memorization-heavy than it needed to be, it was still a really rewarding class to do well in (especially considering the fact that he was so passionate in the subject, and translated many of the original works that we had to read. It also helped me navigate to see if Buddhism was the right religion for me (as it was something I always practiced but never understood enough to know for sure if it was something that I believed in).

Despite all of the classes being amazing though, I would have to say that Chinese 7B and Chinese 100XA/B would have to be the highlights of that experience. I took 100XA and XB with Professor Li Liu, and she was the sweetest teacher I’ve ever had. Although I joined the first of the two courses a few weeks late, I was able to catch up quickly and didn’t feel behind at all. And the fact that I got to continue the class through 100XB and see many of my same classmates, we got to know each other pretty well and it definitely felt like having a class with a second family (especially when Ms. Li invited us all after the last day of school to recite poems outside the campanile and talk about life, it really was an unforgettable experience).

Overall I really loved my experience minoring in Chinese and wouldn’t have changed it for anything in the world. I met the most passionate teachers, learned the most interesting things, and most importantly, I learned to really love and appreciate and truly be proud of my culture. And hopefully, this encourages you to explore new classes and extracurriculars to find what passions you have yet to discover (what better time than college:)) read more

Comparing Dorms and Finding Housing at UC Berkeley


Hello again everyone!

It’s finally that time of year where new and returning students may be trickling back into Berkeley looking for their new classes, tourist sites, and most importantly, new housing locations. But for those who haven’t yet found their housing location, or are looking a semester or year early (which, good for you!), here’s a brief overview of the different housing options that Berkeley students have access to, and how to find those options.

In summary, there are many different housing options that Berkeley has for its students, including the on-campus dorms, co-op housing, housing through Greek life, university affiliated housing, and off campus housing in apartment complexes or houses. Most students (both at Berkeley and beyond) tend to live in the dorms for their first year, then explore the off-campus housing mentioned above that were offered.

Living in the dorms your first year is not required. Some students choose to commute from home or live off-campus during their first year. However, living in the dorms for one’s first year is a very popular option: 92-97% of our first-years and 30% of our transfers choose live in one of the campus residence halls (learn more at https://housing.berkeley.edu/overview). read more

Reflecting Upon my Junior Year at Cal

Along with the passing of May came and went the last month of my junior year at Cal, and the realization that I had only a year before graduation left me nostalgic with so many mixed emotions, and even more self-growth to reflect upon. As someone who spent my first two years of college figuring out who I was and struggling to differentiate that from the ideal college self that I thought I would be, there was a lot that I had to come to accept, the most challenging being that I had to pursue my own career goals to gain my own happiness, even if it diverged from the pre-med student my family wanted me to be. That being said though, this was the first year that I was truly able to explore classes beyond the limited scope of what I thought I had to take, and just barely being able to declare my public health major, that ended involving all the major and minor requirements I’ve been slacking on. But public health is a very broad subject, and my decision to minor in very different topics (Chinese and Education), resulted in me being able to explore fun classes, and take classes that I never thought I would take before. For my public health major, that included classes such as ECON 172 (SubSaharan Africa Case Studies in Economic Development) with Professor Edward Miguel (highly, highly recommended, regardless of your economics background) and a PBHLTH 142 (Introduction to Probability and Statistics in Biology and Public Health) with Professor Mi-Suk Kang Dufour (who by the way traveled all the way from Canada despite the asynchronous platform of the class just to support us before finals), and for my Chinese minor (which I ended up finishing this semester!) that included language courses (100XA and B) with Ms. Liu (which had the best energy with the most fun, loving, and welcoming community anyone could ask for) along with a Buddhism in Contemporary Society course that high school me never would’ve imagined taking. Despite my total number of classes this year totaling at 16, 7 in the fall and 9 in the spring (which, by the way,  is definitely not normal; for reference, a full-time student at Cal only has to take around 3-4 classes depending on what college and major they belong to), because the classes ended up being so interesting and fun, it didn’t feel like 9 classes at all. In fact, I’ve had semesters where I’ve taken four classes and there has been at least one semester that felt worse than this (and that just goes to show how studying something you’re interested in will shape and change your experience at Cal- definitely pursue something you’re interested in!). read more

Answering Questions and Demystifying Negative Stereotypes as a Campus Ambassador at Cal

As a Campus Ambassador at Cal, a major part of my job working at the Campanile and giving tours is answering all the questions that our visiting guests, alumni, and students have to offer. That being said, having just worked my 18th tour and 18th campanile shift, I’ve started to notice that with each shift comes very similar patterns in the questions being asked. And because of that, I wanted to discuss the five most frequently asked questions that I have received (with some responses of which may make Berkeley an even more appealing school to you:)).

“Is it true that Cal has grade deflation? How difficult is it to do well in classes?”

While grade deflation may have existed before my time at Cal, I have never experienced, nor met anyone who has experienced grade deflation at Cal (just for context, I’ve taken classes ranging from the realm of history to data science to math to chemistry and biology, and despite of the diverse range of classes I’ve taken, I’ve never even heard of grade deflation at cal). In terms of how classes are graded, all the professors on campus are able to choose how they see fit to grade their students. While this does sometimes result in difficult classes, the majority of professors do not want to see their students fail and will instead curve the classes to where the average grade, if it’s a C+ for example, will become a B+, and so forth. Your grade will only be curved up. And with the amount of office hours available provided by your teachers and all of their GSIs (TAs), as well as the 10 HOURS OF FREE TUTORING offered every weekday by our student learning center (the SLC for short) and our residential Hall services (you do not need to live on campus to obtain these services), there’s no way you’ll be able to fail (as I always say on my tours, if you know how and where to look for help; you’re gm bound to succeed!:))

“How easy is it to get research positions? Can non-STEM majors do research too? Are undergraduates able to get involved in research at Cal?”

A lot of people assume because Berkeley is a research university that it is a hard university to obtain research in. While sometimes certain positions may be very competitive, there are so many research opportunities that again, if you know where to look, you should be able to find one to get into! UC Berkeley is really great at providing its undergraduate students accessible research opportunities in every field (whether you want to study, STEM, the humanities, or beyond)- and if you feel unqualified for research, I personally had no research experience at Cal and was still able to get research my first semester freshman year (so trust me, as long as you are passionate enough about whatever research you’d like to join, you’ll have a great chance of getting it; and if not, there are probably a ton of related research opportunities that are also potentially looking for researchers).

For those who have less experience, I highly recommend ULAB, or the Undergraduate Laboratory at Berkeley Program at Berkeley. There you’ll get to be paired with a few peers to conduct research in fields ranging from cognitive science to the physical and life sciences, and you’ll get credits to do a related study in whatever field you decide to choose. After gaining some experience, I would recommend the most commonly applied one being the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP) at Cal, which pairs you with a faculty member to conduct research and build a professional relationship with them (I have friends currently developing COVID vaccines and working with Jennifer Doudna (our CRISPER/gene-editing Nobel laureate!) as I type!). For URAP you’re allowed to apply to work with up to three faculty members per semester, so I would definitely use that opportunity to explore any research that you’re interested in (There are also many research fellowships, summer research opportunities, and major/college-specific research opportunities that you’ll have opportunities to explore later!).

If this all feels overwhelming, my best suggestion to gaining research experience is emailing professors, TAs, or labs you’re interested in. Especially since most, if not all of them, are currently doing research (and they love talking about their research). One cool thing that I did and highly recommend doing to find research opportunities is just going to the faculty page of your major website; and most of them, especially the STEM majors, have their research hyperlinked in that research (you got this!!!!).

“How easy is it to find extracurriculars? I’ve heard that clubs are extremely hard to get into.”

While there are some competitive clubs at Berkeley, choosing what org is best for you really depends on what kind of community you are looking for! Many of the clubs that have more rigorous acceptances may be more professionally centered or performance-based, but there are over 1200+ student orgs on campus (you can find them on Callink and even filter by passion, so you don’t have to look through all of them!), not to mention sports teams, the ASUC or Berkeley’s student government, work-study opportunities, and volunteer groups. And with there being so many, there are definitely very similar clubs with very different levels of difficulty getting in, so it definitely will not be the end of the world.

“Is Berkeley actually that competitive?” read more

My College Application Journey (Applying to Colleges, Receiving Admission Letters, and Getting Waitlisted at Cal)

Working at the campanile and meeting many of the newly admitted/waitlisted students, as well as many prospective students looking into colleges and deciding where to apply, I couldn’t help but reminisce back to when I was a high school senior doing the same, and reflecting on how those experiences led to where I currently am today. So that being said, I decided to use this opportunity to share my experiences as a high school junior and senior and how I found the right college for me. I know that not everyone will agree on what type of college they would want to attend, but hopefully, this post will help you realize where you’d like to be.

Although my high school wasn’t the most resourced one, one of the few perks it did have was a college readiness course that all juniors were required to take. In it, students were allocated the whole hour a week to do whatever research we needed to see what colleges we wanted to go to, and how to apply to those colleges (even if you don’t have a course like this, I’d highly recommend you allocate at least a bit of time at least once every few weeks to do the same, just because there are so many colleges (and so little time!)). Being an indecisive person with too many college options to look at and not enough time to research them all, I started off by taking one of the many “Find my College” surveys that websites like Collegeboard or Niche provided online to see which options were recommended for me based on my college wants and needs. read more

My Family’s Berkeley Story

Although my mom graduated from Cal, her journey there was not easy.

My mother was six years old when the Khmer Rouge came and ripped her and the rest of her family from the happy, mundane lives they knew. Anyone was lucky to survive alone, yet my grandmother ensured that her two daughters would not only survive but stay with her. After experiencing much physical and emotional trauma, they eventually made it to California where my grandma concurrently held three demanding yet low-paying jobs that each paid two dollars an hour earning just enough to send both her daughters to college. Despite just learning English, my mom worked hard through high school, climbing up the academic ranks and eventually making her way to the top of her class and making it into Cal. She later not only graduated from Berkeley but the Southern California School of Optometry as well, achieving her dream of becoming both an optometrist and a business owner. read more