Senior Year Nostalgia

Campanile at dusk

I still remember the first time I came to Cal Day, almost 5 years ago as a junior in high school, eager to get started on the college application process, but unsure about how I was going to pick the place where I would spend the next 4 years of my life. I knew college would be an incredible experience, and I knew that I would experience an immense amount of personal growth, but what I didn’t know is that my time as an undergraduate student would pass by quicker than any other time in my life.

Here I stand, 5 years later as a college senior at UC Berkeley, with my entire life ahead of me, and all of the possibilities in the world awaiting me. I feel nervous and scared, uncomfortable with the idea of working a 9-5 office job, nervous about my skills and capabilities, a head full of what-ifs and curious dreams, and a desire to make sure that whatever I do benefits humanity and the natural environment around me. I’m scared, and I really don’t know what my life will look like in just 1 year, but beyond the academic preparation and mental growth, Berkeley has taught me to be okay with not knowing. After all, some of the best things in life, though earned and worked for, grow out of complete uncertainty, and taking leaps of faith that send you into something amazing. read more

Summer Abroad in Prague

My classmates and I visiting St. Vitus Cathedral during a short field trip across town.


As I walked up to the baggage counter and strapped my luggage tag to my suitcase, the reality of my life for the next 3.5 months sunk in. I hoisted the bag up onto the scale: “50.00 lbs.” My parents chuckled behind me, as we had just spent the last two days narrowing down my luggage to stay under the 50 lb limit. I chuckled too, knowing that everything I was going to need for the next 3.5 months was included in that 50 lbs. As the conveyor belt dragged my suitcase away, I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders, but also a new feeling of anxiety as I got ready to leave my parents behind. I walked to the security line and said an excited but melancholy goodbye before I walked through the line, waving behind me periodically. I was nervous, and as I sat down to write my first entry in my journal that I had decided to bring abroad.

I truthfully had never been so scared to leave home. I wasn’t even nervous about the culture I was about to jump into, or even missing my family or being scared of new experiences. I was beyond excited, however I was nervous about my own emotions and being able to remain independent when abroad. I was worried I wouldn’t have someone who I could go to if I was feeling sad, and I was scared about having to navigate my way through numerous countries where I could not speak the language whatsoever. Little did I know, my summer abroad would be the most incredible, life-changing experience I would ever have, and I would meet friends whom upon my return I would say the same tearful goodbye to as the ones I said to my family 3.5 months prior. I had no idea that it would be even harder to leave my home abroad and come back home than it had been to leave my real home in the first place.

Above all, studying abroad taught me to be emotionally independent, and to figure out a world in which I did not know the context or social dynamic. I learned how to travel via plane, train, tram, and bus, relying on what little knowledge I had, remaining self-aware and taking in everything I possibly could about my surroundings. I found a new favorite park to walk around when I felt sad, and I learned enough of the Czech language to explore without getting lost, order food, and converse on a basic friendly level. I pushed myself throughout my time there, even meeting a lifelong best friend with whom I cried, laughed, and danced the night away. The level of anxiety I had coming into the experience faded away, and it became easy to just be excited about any new experience that came my way. I put all my energy into the time that I had there, running to catch early morning trains, sleeping on the floor of the cheapest hotels we could find just to be able to spend the night in the heart of Florence, Italy, and walking 15 miles per day around all of Munich and Berlin. The whole summer became a huge adventure, with every night filled with trips to the Czech beer gardens, the Opera, or relaxing paddle boat rides on the Vltava River. I checked hundreds of experiences off my bucket list, getting to ride the line between being a tourist and a local, unfamiliar with the surroundings but having to long term grocery shop, manage my budget, and go to classes. I felt an interesting sense of belonging, and after 3.5 months it was hard to imagine how my life would change upon coming back home. Even after coming back, my time abroad felt like a dream, and I constantly look back on the feelings of anxiety I had upon leaving with amazement. I was terrified to leave, but in just 3.5 months, Prague had become my home away from home, and leaving the Czech Republic felt like I was leaving a part of myself behind with it. I grew more in these past few months than I ever thought possible, and it gave me a newfound love for traveling and making myself vulnerable. It’s become more and more clear to me that living abroad was the most challenging, yet most rewarding and unforgettable experience I have ever had, and I know that I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

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Summer Limbo

We’re all counting down the days until the end of spring semester: the end of academic responsibilities for a short three months, the beginning of warm weather and free days to escape to the beach or the forest or the mountains, and the short span of time where your schedule is entirely up to you. For some, it might mean starting a new internship, or going back to a job you found last summer and really loved. For some, it might mean flying across the world and exploring somewhere new, and for others it might mean taking that much-needed vacation or coming home to visit your family again. Maybe you are graduating and you have the rest of your life ahead of you in just one short month, or maybe you just started college and you have to figure out how to occupy yourself for the next three summers. Whatever point in college you’re at, summer is a period of time where you have the freedom to choose what you spend your time doing (whether it be a job, a vacation, or strictly unscheduled time), and meet new people in a different setting. What are Berkeley students up to this summer? read more

Getting the Most out of your Visit to Cal Day

You park your car at the top of the campus, eager to step out and get started with the day. It’s been years in the making: You’ve applied, you’ve waited months to hear back, you’ve jumped for joy after your acceptance, and you’ve accepted your offer of admission without hesitation. You’ve always known that you wanted to be a Golden Bear, but now it’s real. Now you have thousands of current college students, waiting to meet you and welcome you to Berkeley.

As you walk out of the parking lot and up to California Memorial Stadium, you see the waves of visitors start to pick up pace. Faces just like yours, wide eyed, excited, and maybe a little nervous, are all around you, and you feel lost in the thousands of admitted students coming to visualize their future at Berkeley. With so much going on and so much to see, where do you start? How do you know if this zoo of a campus is right for you? How do you even find your way around? read more

Mid-Semester Self-Care

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“Treat yo-self.”

It’s not just a saying, a joke, or a phrase to justify your fourth cupcake of the day. It’s incredibly important to treat yourself, to take care of yourself, and to only hold yourself to a standard that is healthy and productive, but not push yourself over the edge. Being honest with yourself and being kind to your body and mind are infinitely important, and are often pushed to the back-burner in college. Whether it’s work your professor assigned last minute, or your group not putting in their portion of work, or maybe even your boss scheduling you too many shifts over the weekend, it’s your job to tell people when you’ve had enough. It’s your job to know your limits, and push yourself without putting your own well-being in harm’s way, and it’s incredibly important to make sure you give yourself breaks to recharge.

But how do you even do that? How are you supposed to take a break when you have 2 midterms, 3 papers, and one project due all next week? When do you find the time?

There’s a difference between taking a break and slacking off. Taking a break and putting yourself first means letting your brain recharge, allowing you to be more productive and happy in the long run.

First and foremost, the best thing you can do for yourself is sleep. Although this may be something that you’ve heard non stop from your parents, professors, friends, and anyone who has been through school themselves, often times sleep is the first thing to be neglected. Sleep makes you productive, happy, and motivated, and it lets you come up with ideas that actually may save you time in the long run. When you’re rested, you’re more efficient and more invested in everything around you, and you will ultimately feel more in control over what you put your time into.

After sleep, exercise and healthy food are both key to a happier, more productive life. However, I’m sure you’ve heard all of that a thousand times before. I’m not here to tell you the same things over and over, so take sleep, exercise, and healthy eating as a given. What else can you do for yourself? Here are 5 ways to de-stress during the middle of the semester, not taking too much time, but giving you the rest you need to realistically be more motivated later on.

  • Write lists.
    Ok, maybe this isn’t a way to forget about everything you have to do, but it helps you visualize your time. I make lists for everything, and even if I don’t stick to every part of it, it always helps me to write out everything I have to do, use a calendar, and check off boxes after each completed task. That way, you stop thinking about everything you have to do all at once, and you start thinking about the step-by-step progress you’re making instead.
  • Reward yourself.
    Yes! Treat yo-self! Don’t make this frequent enough where your incentive loses value, but when looking at your calendar at a tough week ahead, reserve time for yourself at the end of it to take a daytime nap, eat out at your favorite restaurant, or binge-watch your favorite tv show all weekend. Whatever your version of a treat may be, create a reward for your hard work and dedication: if you want others to appreciate the work you do, you have to appreciate yourself too.
  • Take a warm shower!
    Warm showers are naturally therapeutic! Take some time to not only prioritize your own hygiene, but give yourself some personal time to think and reflect, sing in the shower, or just wash away all the bad feelings of that day. Showering helps you start over, relax for a little bit, and come out fresh and ready to take on the rest of your work!
  • Call your parents.
    Yup. You heard me. Remember how mom has been texting you about how you never answer her texts on time? Give her a call! Tell them all about why you’re stressed, tell them what you have going on, and just keep that support system open. When things get tough, your parents are always there for you, so use them as a resource! They’re smarter than you gave them credit for when you were 13 and angsty, so see if they have some good insight. If anything else, it’s always nice to have someone there to talk to who will love you unconditionally and root for your success no matter what.
  • Get out!
    Take a walk, ride your bike, or just sit on a bench outside. Fresh air, regardless of whether it is rainy or sunny, is good for your body and your mind. Staying cooped up in the classroom and heading straight back to the computer after getting home never helps. Stimulate your senses, explore a little bit, and take time to see all of the things around you in nature that you forget about on a daily basis. If anything, you can learn to appreciate your surroundings a bit more than usual, and feel happier as a result!
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    Go Bears!

    “Go Bears!”

    It’s a cry you can hear all around campus. During finals week, football games, or even when you get the last slice of pizza in the dining halls and you’re way too excited about it. In all honesty, it’s a very versatile cheer: when you’re happy, sad, scared, stressed, or anywhere in between. To some, it might be a way of showing sympathy, and to others a celebration after finishing 3 papers all conveniently due on the same day. Maybe it’s the perfect way to sum up all 4 years as a Berkeley student, or maybe it’s a way to find your Berkeley friends in a big crowd. Whatever it may be, “Go Bears” is the cry of a community: a group of students who are passionate, who challenge themselves, and who all have a certain soft spot either for Berkeley itself or for the people they have met here. In a way, it’s a lifestyle, and it’s a method of identifying with people that have a shared experience at one of the best universities in the world.

    I had gotten pretty used to seeing Cal shirts and hats no matter where I went, ending up behind cars with “UC Berkeley Alumni” printed on the license and seeing diplomas framed in family homes. I had noticed it more frequently once I started as a freshman, feeling a sense of pride that one day, I too would be parading around with my alumni merchandise talking about the life-changing 4 years I had at Berkeley. I felt happy, knowing that I had joined a community that knew what it meant to say the words “Go Bears” and mean it.

    It wasn’t until this past spring however, that I truly realized the value of Berkeley’s education. Of course, anyone who has sat in on a class, visited Cal Day, or even has stood at the top of the Campanile during Game Day, knows how special Berkeley is, knows the rigorous academic expectations, and knows what a communi read more

    So You Finished Midterms… What Now?

     

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    There’s nothing quite like the feeling of walking out of your classroom after a difficult midterm, full of nerves and unsure whether to be celebrating or feeling blue from how it all went. You leave the room with mixed emotions, already stressed about the grade you’ll receive on the test weeks later, but ready to take some time away from studying and move out of the library you’ve been stationed in for days to head home. You plop on the couch, exhausted and not ready to dive back into other work for the rest of the day. You decide to take time to treat yourself, but can’t decide what to do. What do Berkeley students do to have fun around here anyway?

    Lucky for you, you live in a city that never sleeps! There’s always something for you to do, whether you’ve been hoping to meet new friends, see a new movie, or take some much needed “me-time.” But what are some new ways to destress that you may not know about?

  • Berkeley’s Unbeatable Sunsets at Indian Rock Park: Perfect for a late-afternoon picnic and a relaxing sunset show, Indian Rock Park is a frequent destination for a variety of Berkeley students. Whether you want to enjoy a picnic and invite you friends, climb around and get some exercise, or have an introspective evening in nature, this little park is perfect for you.
  • Tilden Park: Encompassing everything from the Botanic Gardens and lakeside beaches to steam train rides and merry go-rounds, Tilden Park is a great destination for anyone. Take a few hours to enjoy the last warmth from summer and plan a beach day to celebrate your hard work this semester, or relax and play golf with some friends.
  • Berkeley Playhouse: Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show at the Berkeley Playhouse, “where music and theater come to life.” Catch performances ranging from The Wizard of Oz to West Side Story, or audition yourself for the next upcoming show! Work or volunteer to help these performances run smoothly, and become well versed in the performing arts world!
  • The Cornerstone: Get ready to enjoy yourself with a visit to the Cornerstone restaurant and music venue on Shattuck and Durant. With events ranging from comedy to entertaining musical performances, there’s always a great name to go see. Go support your favorite artist, or discover someone new!
  • Urban Ore: Just a short bus ride from campus you can find a multitude of gems at Urban Ore. Whether you’re a thrifty shopper looking to add to your vintage clothing or vinyl collection, searching for that perfect bedroom shelf, or scrounging around for various antique artifacts, spend an afternoon here and explore. Drop off your own unused items and look around: who knows, you might find that one perfect art piece that you’ve been looking for all these years!
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    Designing my Life

    “I want to be an orthopedic surgeon.” I had become so accustomed to saying these words every time someone asked me what I thought I would want to study in college. I said them so many times that I convinced myself they were true – that I actually wanted to go to medical school and follow the set path that had been laid out in front of me. I travelled across the country to attend conferences and watch surgeries, being interested in the ideas I was learning about, but not really knowing what it meant to fall in love with a path. I believed that since I was good at biology in high school, and since I found the human body interesting, medical school was all that made sense. “School isn’t supposed to be read more

    Lost at Sea

    “Five hundred people.” The words echoed in my head as I followed my tour guide around the campus. I had never been in a class with more than 20 students, so how was I supposed to survive in class at Berkeley, with 499 other students competing for the professor’s attention? How was I supposed to be successful?

    I was terrified coming into Berkeley, having gone to small schools my entire life. I was used to being extremely close to my teachers, knowing them on a personal level as well as an academic one. I had no trouble getting help in my classes, and often times my teachers would seek me out when I seemed to not understand a topic, before I even tried to reach out. I was used to a certain way of learning, and I was scared that Berkeley would be a challenge. I was also used to having a close knit group of friends on a small campus, and although I was ready to move to a bigger pond, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to make the jump from 400 to 40,000. read more

    A Home Away from Home

    “As difficult as architecture school is, it is also one of the best times of your life.”

    If you were to go around to anyone on campus and ask, “what do you think the life of an architecture student is like?” most of them would respond with: “They never sleep!” or “I never see them” or “they’re all perfectionists.” And while it is true that architecture students (or design students in general) work incredibly hard and spend a lot of time in studio, many people who have not been through the studio experience neglect to touch on the fact that studio life is an incredibly life-changing, valuable, and enriching experience. You become aware of all of the little details that can make or break one of your critiques, you learn how to talk with professors, take criticism, and pour your heart and soul into a project, only to be told that your professor is not very fond of it. You learn to defend your work and present you ideas coherently and concisely, taking criticism not as a personal attack but as a chance to develop your own ideas and skills. You learn to manage your time, optimize your studio work space, and balance your other extracurricular commitments, all with a family of students behind you.

    One of the most crucial parts of the studio experience that many people ignore is the network of friends that you build, and the “were all in this together” mentality that becomes a driving force behind the teamwork and comradery that comes out of the experience. Often times students will stay in studio working on projects into the early morning, with other students there to encourage, relieve some stress, and offer an outside point of view on their project. You spend an incredible amount of time together, and you easily start to love the projects you pour your heart into. You take harsh criticism together, grow stronger because of it, and at the end of the day, you bounce back for the next tough project together. Studio is a family, and is one of the most valuable learning experiences I have had in my life.

    Having a second home you can come back to, having people working tirelessly alongside you, and having truly inspiring mentors that have all changed the world in one way or another gives you an unforgettable experience, and one that is extremely unique to the Berkeley architecture experience: Studio life is something that is so difficult to appreciate unless you have been through it yourself, and have had the chance to grow tremendously because of it.