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!:))

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“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

Dear Junior Year

Dear junior year,

What a wild ride, am I right? I’ve been looking forward to writing this blog post all year, but now that I’m here I have no idea where to start. Lets work backwards. I had my first ever in person Cal Day on April 23rd 2022, and dare I day it, life felt like normal after two whole years in the pandemic. Wow. I won an award in the Rally Committee for being a dedicated older member. I applied for chair of the Rally Committee and did not get it (I’m telling myself that one is a blessing in disguise). I took over this blog and have been running it for quite some time now. I joined Dean Guyer’s leadership team in the Arts & Humanities department. I made some new friends. I took the best class with the best professor that I know will never be topped by any other course I enroll in. I decided to move out of the house I’ve spent the last two years in. We won the Axe back in a devastating victory over Stanford. You have to admit, 41-11 is quite the score. I got in to some shenanigans along the way and now we’re here.

Cal never ceases to amaze me. Each year I’ve been here has been vastly different from the last. Every few days I’m learning something new about myself or the university or anything really. Part of being a campus ambassador is sharing what we call our Berkeley story with the visitors we interact with every day. The how we got to Berkeley or why we chose Berkeley, and with every tour I give and conversation I share, that story changes. There’s just too much to cover in a short four minute speech, but the message is always the same:

I’m proud to be a golden bear, and extra proud of the path it’s put me on.

So I look to the future. I’m looking forward to giving tours this summer and getting to know the new hire cohort of ambassadors better (y’all are awesome). I’m looking forward to turning 21 with my best friend here in Berkeley together. I’m looking forward to maybe getting an internship? Honestly, who knows about that one. But most of all, I’m looking forward to senior year. When I was a freshman I couldn’t fathom ever being ready to leave college, it was just a reality I couldn’t comprehend. But now, despite the trials and tribulations, the ups and downs that have continuously thrown me for a loop, I know that I’ve gotten absolutely the most out of this experience so far, and I’m ready to end it with a bang.

The cool thing about UC Berkeley is that it prepares you for life beyond college. Yes, the time we spend here is priceless and something that we get to cherish forever, but college is meant to end and that’s the mindset I’ve found myself in recently. It sounds morbid and very sad, but it’s not, I promise. I’m writing this as if I’m graduating in two weeks, which I am not, but in a years time I will be, and that’s crazy to think about.

Junior year you have been an interesting one. From the epic highs and lows of Cal football to a class on stand-up comedy, from making new friends to watching old ones go on to their next big adventure, I’ve gone through every emotion and experience seemingly imaginable. I reread the letter I wrote to my sophomore year and then the letter I wrote to my freshman year, and I have to say that every year I come out a different person. I think that’s for the best.

Shout out to my junior term, and here’s to the next one. The last one. I’ll see you in a year. And, of course, go bears.

Cheers,

Bridget

Nothing Really Matters

If other Berkeley students are anything like me, they went through high school taking the maximum amount of AP and Honors credits, doing sports and extracurriculars in and out of school, staying up late to finish every assignment, and living in fear of letting themselves–or the people around them–down by getting *gasp* a B! When I was admitted to Berkeley, I had a gut feeling that this was where I would end up, whether I liked it or not. I was worried that I would be overwhelmed by the amount of people and that I would never be able to succeed here academically. After reminding myself that (1) I’m a fairly outgoing person who just has to join clubs and continue to put myself out there and (2) that college is a place to learn from people who have been working in specialized fields for decades, I realized that I pretty much just had to come as I am!  read more

Top 5 Places to Sing in Berkeley

Enjoy singing in the shower and want to upgrade your singing experience? One of my favorite pastimes is finding places on campus that are great for singing, whether it be with your favorite a cappella group or just on your own for fun. After some extensive research and surveying, I’ve compiled a list of the top five places to sing on Berkeley’s campus. Go bears and happy music making!

 

5: Under Sather Gate

Coming in at number 5 is the beautiful Sather Gate. This is every a cappella group’s home once a week, where performances happen for the public eye. While I love that this is a nice public space for groups to perform and it’s in the heart of student happenings, I’m not a huge fan of the outdoorsy acoustics. If you’re looking for a place to showcase your talents to an audience, this is the spot for you. However, if your goal is to make a cool musical cover with nice sound quality, I’d recommend going indoors.  read more

How I Got Into Haas Without Joining a Business Club

Totally not clickbait! No, but seriously. My name is Mikayla, and I am a Business Administration major at the Haas School of Business. After hearing that, most people assume I’ve climbed the ladder through a Haas-sponsored consulting club or competed in finance case competitions for years when, in fact, none of that is true. I’m here to tell you about how I got into the Haas School of Business without joining a single business club.

To begin, I want to touch on a passion of mine: music. (I promise this all ties together in the end). I’ve been inspired by music from an early age, and I feel like that passion has only grown as I’ve gotten older and attended college. From middle school, I was consistently involved in music-related organizations, from orchestra to choir to just forming my own little bands and making covers together. It not only filled the time outside of academics for me but also allowed me to harbor feelings of security and confidence that I didn’t always feel in other organizations.  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

What Berkeley Has Taught Me

Although my college experience is far from over, recently I’ve been reflecting on the lessons that I’ve learned from the school I’ve called home for the past 3 years. Looking back on my freshman year self, sometimes it’s hard to recognize the person smiling back at me in photos. Berkeley has shaped me into who I am today, and although at times I seemed impossible, each of the challenges I’ve overcome have taught me important lessons about myself, life, and the world around me.


Even though my journey at Berkeley started with an acceptance letter, I’ve been faced with more rejections than I can count. Extracurriculars, research positions, and jobs here can be competitive, and even if I felt as though one was perfect for me, sometimes I’ve been let down. I’ve learned to embrace the phrase “rejection is redirection” – I believe that things will work out exactly the way they’re supposed to, even if it’s not always what I want at the moment. read more

Breaking Through Into Business Clubs

Besides the incredible academic and research opportunities, a diverse student population, and an impressive faculty roster, one thing that I will always rave about at UC Berkeley is the variety and professionalism of student extracurricular clubs. While what we learn in the classroom is vitally important to our futures, taking advantage of our Bay Area location and career oriented resources is what truly ensures that Berkeley will set us on an ideal post-grad path.

Berkeley has dozens of business clubs, some of which are notoriously difficult to join. From consulting to finance to technology, the popularity of startups and business centered careers for students has been on the rise, and joining these types of clubs has allowed students to gain valuable first hand experience of what business industries look, while also building student community and networking with professionals in their interest fields. This spring semester, in my third year here, I decided to branch out and try something I had never tried before: joining a business club.

As someone who is interested in learning more about the music industry and how business plays a role in its inner workings, I decided to apply to the Business Careers and Entertainment Club, more commonly known as BCEC, which hosts a variety of committees in fields of work like music, film, television, media, and many more. Despite the competitive nature of the club’s admissions, I opted to apply anyway, thinking that even going through the application would help me get a better feel for what the club was like. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the current executive and members of the club were not only extremely passionate for the organization’s wellbeing, but were friendly, supportive, and encouraging to the potential applicants.

As I progressed through the selection process, I was really impressed at how the leadership afforded time to really get to know you on a personal level and took time to make sure I, and the other applicants, understood the projects and their expectations. I especially appreciated how my time, effort, and ideas were validated and appreciated as I progressed through the interviews. I was very surprised when my committee leader reached out and let me know that I had been selected to join the group. In my first month as a member, I’ve had the chance to develop my professional assets, create lasting bonds, and begin outreaching with and generating content for a variety of music artists.

So here are some of my takeaways from my experience thus far:

The community and relationships you build in a business organization are just as important as important resources and opportunities you may receive, and if you aren’t happy in your membership, you probably won’t enjoy the club as much. Additionally, a business club is a great way to delve into more niche interests while also deciding if business is truly what you want to pursue. Each club here at Cal is different, in their club culture, offers, and expectations, so it’s important to do your research and figure out what values matter to you.

How I Became the President of 3 Organizations at Cal

What is the process of going from a member of an organization into leading it as the President? Is there some kind of secret way on getting to the top? These were all questions I wondered in my first year at UC Berkeley. Before I begin elaborating on my experiences on how I became the president of multiple organizations (the Omniscient Tutor, See the Lord, Student Pre-Medical Advising Network), I would like to mention that you should only commit your time to organizations that you truly care about and would want to make a difference in, specifically within the field that they are operating in. It would be a complete waste of time if you were just solely doing it to slap that title onto your resume. I’m only saying this because I had that same mindset before. In high school, I made the mistake of becoming a President of 3 organizations merely to add to my list of extracurriculars. Although it worked out in the end (since I got into UC Berkeley), I did not truly believe that I made a significant impact in the fields that my organizations were working in. The most important thing that I learned throughout my 4 years at Cal is that being a President of an organization holds a lot of responsibility (not just being a leader that can inspire the team that you work with, but also uphold your organization’s mission and values in any type of scenario). You might be the President of an organization, but this does not mean that your team members have to respect you. It’s only earned through your actions and leadership style. This was the greatest takeaway that I got from the organizations that I lead now. read more

Dear Clark Kerr …

Returning to the dorms was something that I’d never thought I’d do. Although I had loved my freshman year experience, I was excited to experience new housing adventures, like living in my sorority house or in my own apartment. While I did end up doing these things, once COVID hit and I returned back to my hometown, I had to rethink my housing situation for senior year.

I ended up applying to be a Resident Assistant (RA), as I fondly recalled how the RAs in my freshman year building had helped me, a shy and scared first-year, navigate the university. I knew that I wanted to help provide other new students with the resources and tools to explore and grow at Cal. After going through the application process and completing our Community Leadership Seminar, I opened my placement email and found … Clark Kerr! read more