Each time you ask a Berkeley student the golden question, why Berkeley? Or maybe just asking what they love most about the university, you’ll end up finding a different answer. To me, that might be one of my favorite things about this campus — the fact that there can be 40,000 students learning in a single environment and each individual can walk away with a unique Berkeley story. When I walked onto campus as a student for the first time I had never been a very politically active person and tended to shy away from politically charged discussions for fear I wasn’t educated enough or simply wishing to avoid conflict. Therefore, what drew me to Berkeley wasn’t necessarily the political history and progressiveness of our campus, but instead the academic environment and the opportunities I might find learning under experts in the fields of science and medicine that I was studying. Of course, I did end up finding myself in general chemistry lecture halls named after Berkeley professors who have paved the way for modern science and being taught by pioneers in the field; however, what solidified my Berkeley story and my own personal growth was something entirely different.
How do you make the best out of the worst situations? Leave it to the Bears to figure it out.
Like every other school, we’ve had to shift our operations online and our in-person classes have been replaced by Zoom sessions. And at first, it was exciting to try out this new platform; I amused myself by using the Zoom private messaging feature to send cheesy jokes to my friends, and it was convenient to be able to attend my online lectures from the comfort of my own bed. But the novelty wore off pretty quickly, and the initial excitement gave way to the understanding that Zoom would be our only way to interact with each other until the end of this pandemic, an undetermined amount of time. The realization was hard to swallow.
Everyone raises their eyebrows when I tell them I’m currently living in a fraternity house. My manager at Trader Joe’s was intrigued, and Aunt Kendall was slightly appalled. But we’re being safe here, I promise. There’s a room for anyone feeling symptoms to isolate themselves in, and most of us are taking advantage of the Berkeley COVID-19 Safe Students Study run by researchers on campus. We take our temperatures every day, submit them to a form, and get tested for free! The cotton swab test made me tear up a bit, but campus is working hard to come up with a plan for the upcoming semester, and if this helps them make sure my friends can return safely, then I’ll do it.
Now that school has been out for about a month, I find myself with very little to do at home. Like most students, I am just itching to get back to Berkeley after 3 months away. I miss my home-away-from-home. But, of course, theres over 2 months until the Fall semester starts and we can all move back. That’s two months worth of Netflix, and Hulu and Amazon Prime to watch. Here are some of my recommendations for what to watch during the wait.
My first recommendation is the show that I am currently watching: Dear White People. The Netflix Original follows a group of black Ivy League students, one of which is a girl with a radio show called “Dear White People” where she talks about different black issues on campus. I decided to start watching this show after seeing recommendations on shows and movies to watch to educate yourself on the Black Lives Matter movement. Along with just being a great show, I think the contents of this show are really relevant to the current climate of our nation, and that a lot of people can benefit from watching it. Also, since it takes place at a college, it makes me excited to return to our own campus soon. After watching the entire first season in the last 3 days, I can say that I really recommend this show as something to watch while you’re waiting to get back to Cal.
Today marks about a month and a half of summer vacation – though ‘vacation’ for Berkeley students doesn’t hold the same relaxed, go-somewhere-far-away notion as others may have. Many students take their 3 weeks of time off the ‘normal’ school year to invest their time into summer courses, study abroad, internships and volunteer experiences.
For me, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to spend my time this summer. While I received an internship offer from a firm in San Francisco and expected to be spending time with family and friends back home from time to time, the uncertainty of quarantine jumbled up summer plans for myself and those around me. And now while the world awaits this pandemic to the over, the end doesn’t seem too close for our state and country.
After COVID-19 sent a shock wave through college campuses across the nation in early March, forcing thousands of students to return home and finish their spring semester virtually, I found myself scrambling to plan for the upcoming summer in quarantine. I had originally planned to live in Berkeley during the summer months and work as a Campus Ambassador, but the complications of the recent pandemic forced me to consider other options. How could I stay productive while trapped at home? What could I do with my time that would be beneficial to me in the long run?
Two days before I turned 19, I moved in with 8 of my closest friends to the bottom half of a duplex with 6 more of my friends upstairs, but that’s a whole other story.
When I first decided to live off campus, I was so unnecessarily afraid. All I knew was that it was going to be different from dorm living. For starters, I wouldn’t have to wear shower shoes anymore, but that luxury was paired with paying for utilities and buying my own groceries. Not to mention, finding an apartment is so much harder than applying for housing. It was a daunting task, but I went through it with my best friend which made it a little bit easier.
My college experience has been a sequence of serendipitous moments, each leading me to a better and brighter place. As I have spoken about in a previous blog post, the deciding factor that led me to Cal was a chance moment of looking up the motto for the College of Natural Resources. I love talking about my experience in that college as a Society & Environment major, how supportive and welcoming that environment has been for me. However, I would argue that the defining moment of my college experience was when I decided to pick up my second major, Geography.
Most of my life, I’ve learned not to rely on social media, and to view digital connection as inferior to human contact: to be present in the moment, to focus on in-person interaction and to value the impact of a warm embrace. However, what happens when you can no longer hug your friends, celebrate a momentous life transition with a party to remember, or create memories that are worth putting down the phone for? What happens when your life becomes a series of online interactions, and your ability to connect with others starts to rely on the strength of your own internet connection? How do you make memories, and how do you live in the moment? How do you seek out moments of intimacy when the safety of your community relies on its nonexistence?
A healthy dose of competition is normal, but if it gets out of hand, you can find yourself acting irrationally.
I know for myself that I’m the kind of worker that needs pressure to perform well. I also have a tendency to put myself in competition with others in my own mind. Comparing myself to others creates a false sense of pressure that I use to get into gear and work harder.
However, this isn’t the reality and definitely is not healthy. In my experience at Berkeley as an English major, competition doesn’t really exist too much, but my high school was the complete opposite. Everyone knew what everyone scored on their SATs and all other tests. Academics was a strategic game that we were playing. It was toxic, really. Maybe a student was trying to gain satisfaction amidst their parents’ lack of praise. Maybe a student was striving to find their value, yet looking for it in a number instead of their actions.