Everything I Learned Outside of the Classroom

In my four years at Berkeley, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about how organic molecules are formed, about the duality of particles acting as waves, and about how chemicals contribute so much to our world, both good and bad. I read thousands of pages of chemistry textbooks, some of which kept me up at night because they fascinated me, many that put me to bed because they were so dry and boring.

But as most soon-to-be college grads will likely agree, I know that I learned far more beyond the classroom. I learned to become a somewhat dysfunctional, sometimes functioning adult. I developed some vices I’m not so proud of (an addiction to caffeine) but also perfected the level and intake of caffeine that will give me the ideal amount of focus to get to work.

I learned to be extremely inquisitive and curious about the world. Berkeley gets an inaccurate rap of being a liberal bubble, but on the contrary I think it’s made me very open-minded to people of different beliefs. At Berkeley, we generally hope to have political beliefs and ideology that serve the greater good, but if something in our aligned political party isn’t serving the American population, then we’re not going to blindly support it. We are critical of our government and actively brainstorm alternative solutions in and out of the classroom. We show up to protest causes we are against, and show up in even greater numbers for the causes we support— take the Climate Strike in 2019 that gathered thousands of students that are behind oil divestment, progressive climate policy, and the Green New Deal.

One of my greatest takeaways of attending a huge undergraduate institution with a diverse student body is how to foster an inclusive environment. From little things, like the language we use to address other people so as not to assume their gender identity or sexuality. Or larger issues, like how to host an event or activity that is going to accommodate for people of all abilities. Or even thinking about the kind of people that are going to show up in a space, and if our organization reflects students of all backgrounds so as to make everyone feel welcome and invited. Learning how to cultivate a safe and positive environment is a skill that will be implemented far more than my knowledge of quantum mechanics ever will! read more

Living in Berkeley: Ultimate Travel Guide [Part 2]

Here is Part 2 of the Ultimate Travel Guide for Berkeley. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, then please click here.

Our next HIGHLY RECOMMENDED sightseeing place IS:

3) The View from the Lawrence Hall of Science/Mathematical Sciences Research Institute

This location overlooks the entire city of Berkeley as well as San Francisco in the distance. One of the best views of the Bay Area can be seen from this site. Travel up with your buddies in the afternoon and stay for the sunset/night views! I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed with this visit. There are 2 ways in which you can get up to the Lawrence Hall of Science: 1) By hiking up the fire trails (which connects directly to the Mathematical Science Research Institute and leads to the Lawrence Hall of Science) OR 2) Get a car ride from the Memorial Stadium to the Lawrence Hall of Science (faster route; on the way, you should pass by the UC Botanical Garden). read more

Dear Sophomore Year

Dear sophomore year,

I’m so glad you’re almost over. This year has been so hard in so many ways, I’m ready to move forward and leave you in the past. Spending a full academic year virtually has really helped me come to appreciate normal college life more. I’m tired of never leaving my house and I miss all the clichés from my freshman year. Staying in the libraries until they close, sitting down in class out of breath because I hate having gaps in between my classes nd have to run sometimes, spending all day on campus and walking home as the sun sets.

All of that was stolen from me and everyone else on campus this year, and I don’t think I’ll ever forgive you for that. Sophomore year, why did you have to be so hard? Zoom burnout, academic burnout, social burnout which I didn’t even think was possible considering I only ever see my housemates. I’ve taken to making jokes about how I peaked last year, how fall 2019 was the best year of my life. But as time progressed and now we’re here at the end of it all I can’t help but feel the truth in that sentiment.

Sophomore year, while you were kind of awful I want to focus on the good that came out of you. I rediscovered why I’m passionate about my majors, and I changed my concentration in the Rhetoric department which I am so excited about. Speaking of Rhetoric, I just filed for the paperwork to declare it as my second major, having also declared my first (Philosophy) last fall. You’ve given me the chance to really bond with the people I live with, creating a really supportive atmosphere that I could not have made it through the pandemic without. My classes really kept me afloat, providing structure and routine. Just like last year, I had some really cool professors and GSIs that I hope to stay connected with, maybe take a class with them in person. Overall, I’ve just been existing. It was kind of cool to be a part of history like this, but I’m ready for it to be over now.

Next year is already off to a much better start (no offense). Being in small departments, all of my classes will be in person meaning I get to be on campus again. I’m passing on the mantel of Director of Security in the UC Rally Committee to a really wonderful and dedicated new member who I am beyond excited to mentor and help. Not only that, but I’ve made a few new friends who I care about so deeply, and I’m anxious for the day that we meet in person and I can give them the biggest hug. Even though I won’t have an executive position in the UCRC, I’ve come to terms with that and am ready to help my friends who did in any way I can. I’m excited for them to move back to Berkeley as well. I live with lot of them already, but it’s just not the same without everyone.

I think the hardest part is how many people are graduating this year. I hate that their senior year was ripped from them, and I hate that I have to watch them go without really even getting to say goodbye. I know it’ll hurt like this every year, like it did last year, but this one is a little bit different. If any of you seniors are reading this, you made this year special for me and I’m going to miss you so hard.

I want to apologize, because I know that when I look back on you I’ll see you as the worst year of my life. But it wasn’t all bad, and deep down I’ll remember that too, although I’ll be too stubborn to admit it. One day, sophomore year will be a great story to tell.

With love,

Bridget

 

P.S. to the senior who reads all these posts, runs the blog, and made me the campus ambassador that I am right now: you were such an amazing cohort leader and I’m thankful for that every time I clock in to work. Congrats on graduating, you’re going to do some amazing things I just know it 🙂

 

Not a house, but a Home

Contrary to popular belief, I’d say that the most stressful part of going to UC Berkeley is trying to secure housing. Finding the perfect place to live can be a hassle, between finding an apartment or condo the right distance from school or making sure you and your friends can live close by, the sheer amount of options can be overwhelming. But once you do find the perfect place, it may feel more like a temporary residence than a home. And it shouldn’t feel like that! So here’s the story of how I made my apartment something unique.

When I first moved into my apartment last August with my friends from the Rally Committee, I didn’t really know what to expect. The front room had 3 mismatching couches and crayon colored pictures on the wall. The living room featured 2 mismatching tables of different sizes complimented by benches with white vinyl padding. My roommates living there over the summer didn’t have a naturally eye for decorating, and the atmosphere of the house reflected this cluttered and disorganized vibe. Most of our first semester, a majority of my housemates and I studied alone in our rooms rather than hanging out in the common areas. I felt like I was living in the dorms again, but less welcoming.

Finally, my housemates Joseph, Bridget, and I got to thinking about how we could better utilize the space. The first step was evaluating the usefulness of each room. By moving our couches and TV to the living room, and putting a more fitting table in the front room, we easily created two areas for recreation and study. Next was to clear unnecessary clutter, including papers, unused shelves, and replacing worn out benches with cushioned chairs. Finally, we added decorations and accents to the house that reflected our love for fun and Cal spirit loving energy. Old donated Cal banners adorn the walls, and posters from Bonfire Rallies in years past line the room. Sitting on our mantle next to the TV is a picture of my house, as well as our friends in the upstairs apartment, celebrating one of our housemate’s birthday. These three main additions transformed our house, from a messy, confusing aggregation of things, into a home filled with memories and a loving touch.

The perfect living space, no matter the location, means putting your personal vibe and flair into your home. The great thing is that it doesn’t have to be expensive: a stop to the local dollar store or a trip to a resale store will provide you with an unlimited about of decorating supplies to provide your common spaces with a personal touch. Additionally, the great thing about Berkeley is the unexpected shops and popup stores that often provide you tapestries, wall art, or plants for you to add to your residence. College for me is a time to find my community and my place, and what better way to do that then making a home!

Mental Health is Important: Tips to Finding a Therapist

Berkeley can be a tough school; and with grinding academics, a vigorous social sphere, and other stress-inducing activities it is so important to take care of your mental health. There are many ways to tend to your needs, but one thing that has worked really well for me is therapy.

Before anything else, it is really important that you understand everyone can benefit from therapy. This means you must debunk any preconceived notions of therapy as something for “mentally ill” people. Therapy comes in all forms and is meant to target and help whoever is attending it. If I had it my way, every person in the world would be able to access free therapy.

To speak a little on my experience: I found myself falling into a state void of motivation, plagued with anxiety, and uncertain about how to feel like myself. After months of searching, I finally found a therapist, and every aspect of my life has benefitted! I’ve gained the motivation I had before COVID-19 back, built stronger relationships with those around me, and felt the happiest I have since the start of the pandemic! 

Now, I feel it is my mission to let you in on some not-so-secret secrets about therapy. =&0=&

  • Search for a therapist on Psychology Today. Psychology Today is a website with a therapist navigator system! There you can filter your search to find the perfect therapist for you! 
  • Finding the Right Therapist. If you’re using Psychology Today, you can filter the therapists you see! I would recommend first selecting your insurance, then focusing on other aspects such as focus or gender. I personally knew I wanted a female therapist who focused on anxiety, so I applied those filters!
  • read more

    The View from the Boards: My Experience as a Mic Man

    You’ve probably heard of a lot of different Cal Spirit Groups on this blog. We have our Cal Band, the Rally Committee, our Cheer and Dance teams, and our loveable mascot, Oski. But as much as the Mic Men get our share of love and affection during game days, it’s sometimes difficult for others to understand what it is that we do and how we fit with Cal Spirit.

    The Mic Men are the group responsible for leading the cheers during games and tailgates! We make sure that Cal fans in the audience keep their energy and enthusiasm up for our student-athletes. We’re leading those cheers even when the situation looks bleak for our team.

    Neomie in Mic Man attire, including an iconic blue-and-gold striped tie, at California Memorial Stadium
    I’m in my Mic Man attire, ready to lead the crowd of Cal fans through another game of cheers, win or lose. The blue-and-gold striped tie is essential, of course. Photo by Matt Ha.

    Last year, I was chosen to be one of the Mic Men. It was an experience I never saw coming to me, but the semester and a half that I did it in person remains one of my fondest memories! I never expected myself to conduct tours as a Campus Ambassador, let alone lead cheers in front of thousands of students and Cal fans. But being part of Cal Spirit has been undoubtedly one of the best experiences I’ve had in my time at Berkeley.

    Bouncing off the energy of the crowd, the student-athletes, and the other spirit groups was nothing short of exciting. I got to meet some amazing people and lead a highly-energized crowd through an incredible round of cheers. One of my favorite moments was running up and down the student section and giving high fives with a fellow Mic Man! I even got to witness our football team and Rally Committee take the Axe back from our rival Stanford in back in 2019. I’m definitely not going to forget celebrating on the field after our team won. (Even when we lost the Axe just a year later, it’s still my favorite memory… I cry all my tears.)

    Mic Men team of 2019 at Stanford Stadium for the annual rivalry game
    The Mic Men team (from left to right, myself (Neomie), Kunal, Owen, Tyler) bask in the glory of getting the Axe back in the aftermath of the 122nd Big Game in 2019. Photo by Matt Del Bonta.

    When you sit in the student section at our Memorial Stadium, there’s a huge block of concrete in the front where the Mic Men lead our cheers from. We call that concrete block the Boards. This is also where Cheer and Dance perform during the quarter, and where we can coordinate cheers and stunts with Band and the Rally Committee! The view that I got to see from standing there is one of my favorite sights on campus.

    Having sat in the student section before, I got to feel the energy of the crowd firsthand. The energy of my classmates even helped me stay optimistic when our football team was losing. But experiencing that energy as a Mic Man is something special. Sure, the fans might get a little annoyed if we’re still leading cheers during a losing game, but they put their hearts into the cheers anyway. I mean, having the crowd root on for the Golden Bears even when we’re losing is what we’re meant to do.

    Whether it’s at a football game, a basketball game, or a 7-3 victory against our rivals in an ice hockey rink, I appreciate that the crowd stays dedicated to cheering on our Golden Bears. You’ll find droves of fans everywhere, but the dedication and passion coming from Cal fans is something you won’t find easily in other places.

    As one of the few women who have been on the Mic Man team, I genuinely hope to see more people take on this position. Since a lot of Mic Men are planning to graduate soon, I want to leave the team in good hands. Don’t let our title fool you; you don’t need to identify as a man to be great at leading cheers!

    The Myth of “ONE” Best Fit University

    Maybe you applied to 10 schools and got into all of them! Congratulations!

    Perhaps you were waitlisted to Berkeley, accepted your offer elsewhere, and now you got in to Berkeley! Now what?

    Maybe you didn’t get into the schools you hoped for and are now overwhelmed as you compare and contrast your options.

    As a college senior reflecting on the college decisions process, I think the college decision was too overhyped for me. I remember my thoughts that kept me up at night, trying to search for a sign that would reveal the school that was the one. Committing to a location and university for four years is daunting— but your unique soul and spirit are stronger than the transformation that any one university can do to you. I’ve spent time immersed in two undergraduate environments and come to realize that both would have been fantastic options, not one better than the other.

    Katia holding instagram cut out on Cal Day in Sproul Plaza
    The day I decided to go to Cal!

    For context, I spent my childhood assuming I would attend UC Santa Barbara someday. My mom went there and ever since I was little I felt an emotional pull to this beachy region of California– I had to be talked into even applying to any other schools. I surprised everyone, especially myself, when I ended up choosing UC Berkeley over UCSB for a handful of good reasons.

    Fast forward four years and I took advantage of online classes to move next to the UCSB campus, where I have been for the past year. Everyday I wake up and take Berkeley classes and give virtual tours online, but when I leave my apartment to go out and interact with people from a distance, I am essentially living the life of a UCSB student. I am super happy to be here and I feel like I really belong in this town where the sun is on my skin and the ocean steps away. But if I’m being honest? I belong at Berkeley, just as much, if not more.

    Both university environments fostered positive growth in my undergraduate years. My home for the last few years was Berkeley, CA, and I knew it because I could feel my heart tug at the sight of the Campanile after returning from a trip. I recently felt that same tug when I left Santa Barbara for the weekend and returned to our beautiful beaches and mountains, knowing this was home now. At Berkeley, I grew immensely by being academically stretched, gaining wonderful mentors, and encountering and overcoming failure. At “UCSB” I have learned to balance my work with time spent outdoors,  and have spent a lot of independent time soul searching for my future path.

    On paper, both Berkeley and UCSB are large research institutions, have a dynamic student body, and have club opportunities with lots of overlap. In my physical experience, I spent a little over 2 years living in Berkeley and 1 in Santa Barbara, I couldn’t tell you which one was the right choice. Both schools would have been a really, really great fit.

    And so this is not to say you should take your college decision lightly. Many students will end up transferring schools after a year, drop out, or suffer through a poor fit school. But if you are looking for the stars to align to show you the one school meant for you, just go ahead and take a chance on one! You will come out a slightly different person based on your decision, but you will become an enlightened, worldly adult whichever way you go.

    Someday we will have to commit to a career, a future partner, or to a geographical location, and like your college decisions these will be huge decisions but with multiple right options. This isn’t a multiple choice question with one answer, but rather a question that lets you select several right answers. So best of luck to you, don’t sweat it, and maybe we will see you on campus in the fall!

    How to (mostly) write an essay.

    Whether you find yourself in a STEM class (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) or in creative writing class, essays will follow you throughout your time at Cal and any other higher education institution you find yourself in.

    Some may rejoice while others may think it is just an unnecessary way of reaching a conclusion. I am not here to debate its necessity, rather help provide advice and some ideas for you when that day arrives where you sit down for several hours to brainstorm and write your essay.

    The first thing to establish is that every professor and every subject and every topic will not work with the same exact format. A review of a book will be different than a report on the existence of kangaroos. Make sure you understand the prompt and if you have any questions or things that pop into your mind, and I mean any, please ask your instructor. It is the worst thing in the world to do an essay only to find out at the last second that you are slightly off course at the beginning and because of that it made you way off at the end.

    Secondly, whatever topic you choose, make an outline and break it down in a way such as this:

    Have the main topic/argument very clear on your paper. Sometimes the argument you make (and by argument I mean what you want to achieve with the reader interacting with your paper) will change throughout the course of the essay. This is okay, but have a starting off point so you do not stray too far from the course.

    Next write down the main points you’d like to make in the essay. This could be the topics for each body paragraph or the quotations you will be analyzing, etc. This helps to keep your paper from feeling like you are going everywhere with no regard. Maybe there will be a part where you go into a counter-argument, or maybe there’s a break from qualitative evidence to quantitative evidence. All these points, however, should still relate back to your main point. Try to stick to one topic to paragraph until you are comfortable interweaving concepts between them.

    Finally, add in the finer details. These can be quotes, to date, to analytical points, to even things you want to point out. These are what the bulk of your body paragraphs are. It can take some work to make sure they have sufficiently helped move your paper’s goal, so take time here to make sure you have what you need.

    These few tips will definitely help set you up for the time you write your essay. If your outline, evidence, and ideas are there then your first draft and then final draft will feel like second nature. I still spend a lot of time writing, in different languages, and it has always been daunting to start something new, but just like running, the first few steps are the hardest and the middle can feel like a breeze. Just try not to sprint from start to finish if it’s a long race, it can definitely have a bad impact on you. These tips and tricks on writing an essay have worked for me, and they might for you, but some other people may not find use from them. That is 100% ok. However, don’t give up finding a way that suits your writing style, and it is never bad to ask someone for help!

    Creating the Distance: Unexpected Benefits of Staying Close to Home

    I never wanted to go to school close to home. I thought that the college I went to had to be physically far away in order for me to gain the independence I yearned for. My first year at Berkeley taught me that I was wrong. My parents didn’t contact me at all after dropping me off at my dorm — not even a single text. Eventually it got to the point at which I was concerned something had happened to them, and since then we’ve had a more regular flow of communication. But distancing myself from my old life at home served its advantages: I found myself feeling more and more integrated into the campus community, and the more integrated I became the more I realized I was finding my independence. Instead of playing tourist in a new city, I served as a tour guide for new friends who had never been to the Bay Area before. I was asked for restaurant recommendations so often that I started to keep a running list on my phone. That’s not to mention that things like moving and going home for breaks are infinitely easier than they would be if I had moved further away. read more

    Course Highlight: L&S 12, The Berkeley Changemaker

    As a campus ambassador, some of the most common questions I get on my tours are: what are some of the best classes to take? And, this one is a big one, but why Berkeley? What makes our university different from the rest?

    The answer to these questions lies in L&S 12: The Berkeley Changemaker, a 2 unit course that students can take on a pass/no pass basis.

    inserted quote: “As a rising senior looking for a course to take during the summer...I decided to add this course was because of how many different leaders from various majors throughout the campus would be invited...In a sense we were given the honor to talk to the giants that paved a way and len[t] a shoulder to us evergrowing future giants.”

    First offered in Summer of 2020, this course was so popular that it filled up a waitlist multiple times and expanded to accommodate huge interest. The course features 22 UC Berkeley faculty members including Chancellor Carol Christ and secretary of the treasury Janet Yellen, that guide students through a series of readings, lectures, and activities. The course syllabus for L&S 12 outlines an introduction to changemaking, training towards becoming a solution-oriented critical thinker, and culminates with an action plan for how you can be a leader on a tangible community project.

    What does it mean to be a Berkeley Changemaker ? You see, Berkeley has this unique vibe which is hard to find on other college campuses: we question the status quo as we think, and act, beyond ourselves. Not only are our professors and students among the most brilliant minds, but the social and scientific contributions of Golden Bears past and present have quite literally changed the world. Whether it’s been the discovery of the Calvin cycle in photosynthesis, the development of a cost-effective anti-malarial, or the birth of the Free Speech Movement, it is the people of Berkeley that have caused our larger global impact. A big reason I chose to attend Berkeley was because I felt this change-making attitude transcend throughout the campus on my college decision day four years ago, and today it continues to make me feel alive whenever I am in the presence of my Cal community. Despite visiting dozens of college campuses throughout the years, Berkeley is the only one that has exuded this special energy to me. read more