The beginning of your college career is so exciting: dorm shopping, making new friends, living in a new place and registering for your first semester of classes. However, one thing to keep in mind when choosing classes is Berkeley’s breadth requirements. Not all of your classes that you take in your four years here will be directly for your major. Though each college has their own set of requirements, each has a set of breadth requirements outside of major requirements. These are a set of required classes that all students within the college have to complete, and range from topics such as Arts and Literature to Biological Sciences.
Growing up, I read constantly. I spent hours in libraries and bookstores, and read anywhere and everywhere I had the chance. However, once I started college I found it difficult to make time for reading. Between all my classes, homework, and extracurriculars, it’s hard to find time to relax. Despite that, during the past few months of midterm season, I’ve been trying to make more time to do the relaxing things I love. Berkeley is a great city for readers, and I want to share some of my favorite places and events.
I can still remember the excitement leading up to my first week of my freshman year at Berkeley. Like most other freshmen, my mom and I spent hours shopping through Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and Kohl’s, searching for dorm necessities in all my favorite colors. There was just one twist. Unlike most other freshmen, I didn’t live in the dorms my first year.
Housing at UC Berkeley is unique in that students are not required to live in on campus housing during their first year at school. My freshman year I decided to live in a building called Tellefsen Hall, which serves as a housing option for members of the Cal Band. It was cheaper than living in the dorms, and it seemed like a great way to form an immediate community at Cal. Unlike the dorms, Tellefsen Hall houses students of all grade levels and places students of varying grade levels in the same rooms.
As a double major in two completely unrelated subjects here at UC Berkeley, I don’t usually have a lot of room left in my schedule to take classes outside of my majors. My typical semester involves four classes for my majors in addition to my research lab, which doesn’t leave me with a lot of spare room. However, this semester I was able to register in a special one unit seminar through the Center for Latin American Studies here at Berkeley. The class only meets once a week for three hours, and only runs for a month. It seemed like an amazing opportunity and a great way to branch out from my required major classes so when the opportunity arose, I registered without a second thought.
Last night I dreamt in three languages. It was the strangest thing to wake up to and realize, but it made me pause for a minute and reflect on all the amazing experiences I’ve had at Berkeley this semester. As a student at Berkeley, your life is often busy running to and from classes, studying, and participating in any outside extracurricular activities, and you don’t have a lot of free time to just sit and reflect. Since the semester is drawing to a close, I’d like to take a minute to reflect on some of the things I am grateful for this semester.
2. Undergraduate Research: This summer, I started working in an animal behavior lab, where I get to work directly with live mantis shrimps and octopuses. Though I haven’t started a research project yet, I’ll be developing my own creative and independent research project over winter break. My experience in this lab this semester has made me grateful for how widespread and unique undergraduate research is at UC Berkeley. It also makes me grateful to have friends who are still excited to see my mantis shrimp photos after me sending them countless photos all semester.
3. Campus Spirit: I feel so grateful to go to a school as vibrant and spirited as Cal. I spent the majority of my semester performing at football games with the Cal Band, and though it was sometimes exhausting and stressful, everytime the stadium would start cheering for us, it would remind me of how much I love what I get to do. I’ll be traveling with the Cal Band to a bowl game in Arizona over winter break, and I’m excited.
4. New friendships: Everyone at Cal is so friendly, and I’ve made quite a few new friends this semester, even as a third year student. I’ve also gotten even closer to some of my friends from last year, to the point where we’re nearly inseparable. I’ve truly met some of my best friends here at Berkeley.
When I first started school at UC Berkeley, I had no idea how I was going to fit into the sea of students. I came from a small high school, and I knew almost no one at Berkeley. I wanted to make friends and find some sort of community, but with over 30,000 students and 1,100 clubs, I was completely overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start.
Then I auditioned for the Cal Band. I had to arrive at school a week early for a music audition, and after I traveled to Hayward for a weekend training program where I learned marching with other members of the band. It was pretty intimidating at first. The Cal Band is a large organization with over 250 members, and I had never marched a field show before. That entire weekend was full of all kinds of new experiences including learning how to high step, meeting hundreds of people all at once, and eating in a dining hall for the first time. It was terrifying and exhausting, but by the end of the weekend, I had 250 new friends to help me feel more comfortable on campus.
One of my favorite things about Berkeley is how passionate and caring the students are. Cal students are always willing to go above and beyond not only in their academic classes, but in their community as well. This same passionate spirit and dedication is fully embodied in the Berkeley Project.
The Berkeley Project is a club on campus that provides students with the opportunity to give back to the community for one day each semester. Each semester, thousands of students venture out into the community to various work sites and engage in a full day of service. Projects range from gardening to weeding to painting to everything in between. The groups are all various student organizations on campus that want to make a positive contribution to the community, and the groups we work with are all various nonprofits or projects through the City of Berkeley.
One of the most exciting aspects of going to college is living on your own for the first time. You get to move away to a new city, live with your best friends, and have all sorts of amazing experiences. For me, moving away from my small town was a big change. I was one of two students from my graduating class who chose Berkeley, so unlike many of the other freshmen I met in my first weeks who had high school friends, I didn’t have that sort of security net. I had a hard time adjusting to college in those first few weeks because finding new friends, sitting in large lectures, and living in a city were all brand new experiences for me. I missed the comfort and safety of home a lot during those first few weeks, but I started to adjust to my new environment. Now, as a junior, I feel like I’m finally starting to figure things out.