Being Home Again

Moving from LA to Berkeley is quite a big distance even though both places are within the same state. California can practically be its own country if it wanted to, but this is beyond my point. Being able to miss someone is not defined by a long distance. All it takes is a moment alone. 

This was something I had realized when I moved to Berkeley to go to college. Now you might be wondering that this blog is going to turn into a movie trope story about being grateful for being with your loved ones. I have to admit, it is part of the story, but not all of it. This is more of a revelation. read more

No need to lament over learning a new language!

Bem-vindo, Bienvenue, Bienvenidos, Welcome. These words in their respective languages all signal to the listener that the space that they are in is hospitable, that the speaker is greeting the listener in a positive manner. This is a common introduction I have heard during my time at Cal learning different languages. I knew I wanted to study another language that would not only be useful for me when I travel, but also in my career field.

So first, I decided that I would strengthen my Spanish knowledge and would learn Portuguese since there are already many similarities between the two. It was during the summer of 2020, however, that by curiosity I ended up taking an introduction to French class and that truly woke me up to the beauty and intensity of language learning. I was shown that it wasn’t as easy as learning the way to make a sentence and remembering words for “computer” – l’ordinateur – or “excellent female singer” – la chanteuse- (my French instructor had a very healthy adoration for Whitney Houston). Already having an understanding of a romance language did help me a bit when I first started to take French and Portuguese classes, but there was a limit as to how much my Spanish knowledge could help me. This is what I want to point out to you, even with past experience or understanding similar characteristics of a related language, learning a new language is hard. There’s no way to sugar coat it. It takes a lot of dedication and work and sometimes it feels like you just can’t grasp some concepts, but that is okay! The route to learning a language, especially in college, is rough and rugged and messy and incomplete. It is not always about remembering how to translate every word you can think of to the language you are learning, but more of understanding how to express your thoughts to someone else. When I first started my French and Portuguese adventures, my instructors immediately started to immerse us in the language by speaking to us in it. It was difficult and slow, but the more we began to learn about the language structure and learn words, we began to be able to make small steps in our individual journeys. You too can do this. No matter what level of any language you may be at, it takes practice and immersion to get the hang of it. My instructors also told me that it is not a linear path and my journey has proven that to me. There may be moments when it may feel difficult and like everything is getting harder, but that is still a part of your progress because after that it becomes much easier, until the next mountain you may need to climb. However, you should not force yourself to be perfect in every way when learning a language. Being fluent does not mean you know every little verb conjugation or every form of the subjunctive, it means being able to communicate with others who are a part of the language community. read more

Why Office Hours Are Important!

As the end of my third year of college comes rushing towards me, I have given some reflection on my time at Cal. The memories I’ve made with my friends, random adventures I’ve been on, and the brilliant people I’ve met along the way. One of my favorite things about university that isn’t talked about enough might surprise you: office hours.

If you don’t already know, office hours are a time for you to meet with your professors or graduate student instructors (GSIs) outside of class time. Sound intimidating? That’s the secret– it isn’t! I’m not here to give you the same speech you’ll get 1000 times in college: “We highly recommend you go to office hours” or “office hours are great for asking questions about the class.” My goal is to tell you my experiences with office hours and the most unexpected results: friendship with professors and graduate students! read more

Connecting Through Food

This week marks one year since classes at UC Berkeley went online, and since then, it has been difficult to connect with students outside of my apartment. Over the last year, I have learned to appreciate spending time with my housemates, especially cooking dinner with them. Even though things have been online, all of our schedules are still very busy with classes, work, and various student organizations. However, we still make time for what we call “family dinners” at least four days a week, where we all help cook a meal and sit down together at the table to eat.

Since we don’t find ourselves having hours and hours to cook everyday, we’ve decided to cook in bulk. What do I mean by this? When we cook, we cook big. Our mac and cheese nights should provide enough leftovers for four people for a week, although it only lasts us three days. (What can I say? We all love mac and cheese). You wouldn’t think that two pounds of pasta, a pound of cheese, a pound of bacon, a pound of sausage, plus the sauce would vanish so quickly. But alas, it tastes so good and it never seems to last.

Some people, my family included, tend to be surprised by our giant meals. They ask, “Why do four people feel the need to cook ten full pork chops for dinner?” Well, we’ve discovered it just makes sense and here’s why.

First, it’s basically the same effort and level of difficulty to cook large portions vs. small portions. You’re still cutting the same vegetables, boiling water, doing dishes, and all the other steps in making the meal. If you’re already making food, why not just make a lot more? It just makes sense.

Second, when we make large portions, we get leftovers for days. Since we do have days every week when we’re really busy and can’t make dinner, leftover pork chops, fried rice or mac and cheese really comes in handy. It’s good planning!

Third, it’s become a sort of game, making bets about if the food will actually fit into one pan, or if a second pan will be required (A second pan usually ends up being needed). We always end up laughing the whole time at whoever is trying to stir all the ingredients in the nearly overflowing pan. We’ve made it fun and challenging, while spending more time together.

My only caution for cooking a lot of food at once is making sure it all gets eaten. As wonderful as it is to have leftovers, after a few days, those vegetables start to look a little sad and the meat starts to turn a little questionable. Lucky for me though, my housemates and I have had no problem eating all the food in a timely manner. Who says you can’t have mac and cheese for breakfast?

Cooking in a big way with my housemates has become one of my favorite things to do during the pandemic. I highly recommend having really big “family dinners” together. read more

Being Undecided: How I Found My Major

“What are you studying” is a familiar tune to all those entering college. While this question does not exceed words, it carries a weight with it. Upon entering Cal, I had absolutely no clue what I wanted to study.

I want to preface this by saying in high school I didn’t envision life beyond it. Come college application season, I thought that college was just a glorified version of high school, I mean, what the heck was a major anyways? At the time, I loved that school gave us a taste in every subject, so imagine the shock I received when I was told I could only pick one to two fields to study.

Fast forward to starting my time at Cal– I remember feeling overwhelmed as it seemed everyone knew exactly what they wanted to study. When meeting people and discussing majors they wouldn’t miss a beat when discussing theirs.

I decided to force myself into looking through out the majors and trying to find one that interested me. Recalling that I enjoyed my science classes, I tried out various biology majors. My second semester I took “Sociology 3AC” and left the first class in awe. However, I decided that would be my “fun” class and continued to trudge through the bio pre-requisites.

While I enjoyed biology, I kept yearning for the content that motivated me to question the status quo, as my first sociology class gave me. I looked into Marine Science, Environmental Engineering, French, Linguistics, and Media Studies as potential majors. All the while it felt as though everyone around me knew their path in life.I kept stressing myself out for not having a major decided and almost rushed into declaring one just to get it over with. It wasn’t until the Spring of 2020 that I finally decided to take another Sociology class, and it once again felt like home.

This past semester I declared Sociology. This moment that I built up in my head as the turning point in my college career, happened unceremoniously as I filled out a form and received an email confirmation. While I felt like I was the only one going through this, when catching up with friends over Zoom I learned that some of them went through a similar journey. It was reassuring to know that not everyone has their lives figured out, and that it’s okay to change your major.

When talking to the occasional non-social sciences student, I’ll get asked “what do you even do with a soc major?”. A very valid question, and one that came to me as I veered back and forth between sticking with biology or sociology. This lead me to an important realization: your major does not define your career path. While being a Sociology major, I’ve completed the requirements to apply to medical school. Sociology affects just about every aspect of life, as it IS the study of society, and can be implemented in many fields. As my peers are applying to jobs and I’m beginning to feel the pressure of applying, this journey to my major has taught me that there is no one set path. It can be polarizing to feel like the odd one out, but this path to finding (and loving) my major has taught me that in due time we all find our interests.

I hope that those of you out there that are still unsure what they want to study feel slightly more comforted after reading through this. Take it from someone who took a little longer to find their passion: study what makes you passionate and remember that you are so much more than your major! read more

Squeezing the Most out of my Last Virtual Semester

As I near graduation, it’s hard to pick a favorite memory, school year, or class. But, I’m not quite looking back yet, I’m still looking at my last co

uple months to make sure I fit in everything I want to while I still can. I still have two full months and I want to enjoy it as much as I can, but it’s hard to know how to fit in as much of the Berkeley experience as possible, when there’s nothing in person. I have decided on 3 main things to focus on for the rest of the semester to make sure I enjoy the last little bit of my time at Berkeley. read more

Brain Like Berkeley

If you’ve ever had the privilege to join us on a campus tour or online visit, you may have heard the abbreviated version of some of Berkeley’s best contributions to the world of science. Whether it’s the mention of our 16 elements on the periodic table or winning a Nobel prize for the discovery of CRISPR gene editing, we as campus ambassadors try to highlight our favorite scientific discoveries for our visitors. However, a regular tour doesn’t have enough time to get into all the facts because UC Berkeley has too rich of a history to even brush the surface. Here I try to outline some of the lesser known, but equally exciting, contributions that Berkeley has made to furthering our understanding of the world.

1. The Calvin Cycle
Melvin Calvin and co-researchers discovered the famous pathway that is an essential part of photosynthesis in plants. By adding radioactive carbon dioxide into a suspension of cells, they were able to trace how carbon distributes itself in the light and dark stages of photosynthesis. I was totally nerding out when I learned of this discovery, years after memorizing the very cycle in my high school biology class!

2. The Wetsuit
As a surfer, I’m so hyped about this 1952 invention by physicist Hugh Bradner, who discovered that neoprene was a suitable fabric for insulation from cold water. While later popularized and commercialized by legendary surfer Jack O’Neill, you can thank Bradner and UC Berkeley for the original idea!

3. Scuba Diving Tanks
On the topic of water sports, chemist John Hildebrand created the pressurized mixture of helium and oxygen that today allows SCUBA divers to descend hundreds of feet under the sea. This 1924 invention allowed divers to explore the depths of the ocean like never before, without experiencing “the bends.” Still today, one of our buildings, Hildebrand Hall, commemorates this iconic man.

4. Berkeley UNIX
Alright don’t quote me on this one because I’m not a computer expert, but Berkeley UNIX was developed by alumni Kenneth Thompson in 1969, essentially starting the revolution of open-source software. A product of Bell Labs (later AT&T and Nokia), this invention became one of the early operating systems in the very beginnings of the computer and tech industry.

5. Influenza and Polio Vaccinations
Remember a world where vaccine wasn’t a daily word that crossed our minds? Well, on top of our many contributions to the race for a COVID-19 vaccine, Berkeley biochemist Wendell Stanley was responsible for both a WWII-era polio vaccine and influenza vaccine. With the UC Virology Laboratory, his research was critical in preparing vaccines and combatting the spread of these viruses. Today, Stanley Hall is named after this revolutionary scientist.

These are some of my favorite discoveries, but even still there are so many other findings, especially beyond the sciences, that UC Berkeley is proud to claim. As a chemistry major at UC Berkeley, I can honestly say that a big draw to the university was my absolute awe when I learned of some of our scientific contributions, and I continue to geek out every time I learn about another one!

For more incredible facts, check out the link where most of these came from and enjoy! https://www.berkeley.edu/about/history-discoveries read more

My Internship Search

I feel like my parents ask me at least twice a week what job I’ll be able to get with my major and what my career goals are. Both of my majors are incredibly broad and not something you see in a lot of fields. In a previous blog post I talked about my decision to become a geography major on top of my Society & Environment major. Truthfully, with a lot of things academic wise and career wise, I just don’t know what I want. I’m the type of person who gets excited about literally anything and everything but I also get bored easily. I chose my majors because I wanted something that would continually be stimulating and changing. It’s great for being in college, but for a career path, it’s a little tricky. How the heck do I apply for internships when I don’t even know what I want? How do I tell interviewers that I simply don’t know where I see myself in five years? My initial reaction has always been uhhhh successful I think? Well I just secured an internship that I am thrilled about for this summer so let me take you on my journey.

I like to describe my extra curricular life at Cal as meandering. I’ve been going from opportunity to opportunity without a ton of direction or plan, jumping on whatever sounds most interesting to me at the time. I’m a motivated person with very general goals of being successful but like I said, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m the first in my family to go to a top university so I’ve had to navigate it pretty much all on my own. I didn’t come in with a plan of the exact things I wanted to do, but that’s okay!

I didn’t build my career in a directional way. I got lucky, I worked hard, and recognized when I was putting energy into something I didn’t want to continue with. That’s my biggest advice to you all: make sure that what you’re putting your energy into is actually something you care about and want to continue with. Just because you’ve been doing something for a while doesn’t make it worth your time if you’re not into it anymore. For all of you economists out there, don’t buy into the Sunk Cost Fallacy.

I didn’t put as much effort as I probably should have into getting an internship the summers after my freshman and sophomore year of college. It became an imperative for me this summer to make sure I had something lined up.

So, I started early. First, I had to figure out what I wanted to apply for. Human Resources? Public Relations? Marketing? Sure, why not? I got my resume all gussied up and started applying like crazy. I’d spend hours a day hitting apply to every job in those fields primarily through LinkedIn. But I didn’t get a single interview for months. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. Was I applying too early? Maybe. Was I applying for the wrong positions? Perhaps. Was I looking in the wrong spot? Probably not, honestly. The simple answer was something I thought I could overlook: I hadn’t submitted a single cover letter.

For those of you who don’t know, cover letters are supplemental to your resume, essentially outlining why you’re qualified for and why you want a particular position. I’d been dreading writing one because I had no idea how to do it. I was an idiot and forgot that I’m actually really good at writing. I asked my housemate for help and made a few different basic cover letters for different positions.

I’d like to say that it was an immediate fix, that I had the interviews rolling in afterwards. It still took a couple more months of tweaking and changing my tactics before things started happening. I realized I couldn’t rely only on LinkedIn, but had to spread my wings a little further. Handshake and Zip Recruiter ended up being my best friends.  I could not even tell you how many internships I applied to.

I learned very quickly how to do interviews. I’m trained to talk about myself as a campus ambassador, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to do an interview. All it is is telling your story and applying it to their company. I still had no idea how to answer the question “where do you see your career in 5 years?” and just hoped I would get off without getting it.

One thing that really needs to be internalized for anyone applying to internships is that interviews are a two way street: they’re learning about you, and you’re learning about them. I didn’t realize how much that would be the case until I’d done about five interviews. Some companies immediately rubbed me the wrong way. I’m big on punctuality personally and any company that makes me wait more than five minutes past the scheduled interview time automatically gives me a red flag. Three things stood out to me in every interview: don’t drink coffee before an interview (it made me nervous and jittery every time because I was already highly stressed), do your research about the company first, and don’t settle. If you don’t vibe with the company initially, there’s a good chance you won’t enjoy working for them.

My best interview actually didn’t start off super well. It was the end of the day, I’d been working for hours and was generally just pretty tired. Luckily, it was just a phone call and I didn’t have to get dressed up or anything. I took a deep breath, accepted that this might not end up going super well, and took the call. Turns out my interviewer was also tired and had been working all day. Great, already a barrier. But I turned it around, joking about how I was tired any time I stumbled on my words and it honestly created a much better environment than I had expected. It was supposed to be a 15 minute phone call but I had so much fun talking to my interviewer that it turned into 30 minutes. My guard was down, I could just be me, and I ended up getting a second interview with them! It was great!

My second interview, however, was way more pressure and totally the opposite energy. I decided after the first interview that I really really wanted to work for the company and that I was going to do just about anything to make it happen. So no pressure, right? It ended up being two people on a video call, asking me questions that I was prepared for but were much harder than the first one. But, I kept my cool and remembered that I was prepared. And I did get asked what my career goals looked like in five years. I tried so hard to come up with a crafty, cool response about how I was so motivated to do x, y, and z. But I’m a terrible liar and ended up sticking with the truth. I told them, honestly, I’m not so sure. All I know is that I want to be successful and, for me, doing that means being wherever I find I enjoy myself and where I’m most useful. I couldn’t tell them a specific position or even general career field I wanted five years in the future. I just knew I wanted to work hard and explore that for myself. For a moment, I felt a little dumb saying that. But I realized that staying true to myself was way more important than having an answer that I thought they wanted to hear.

I found out the next day, which happened to be my 21st birthday, that I didn’t need to interview anymore, that I’d gotten the job. Turns out my honest responses actually made an impact. I accepted the offer right away because I knew from my interactions and my research that I really wanted to be there. I never had to compromise who I was, I was able to have fun with the process, and it turned out to be exactly what I wanted in a summer internship! Fingers crossed to see how it goes, I can’t wait to get started 🙂

 

–Kaelyn (she/her/hers)

32.7157° N, 117.1611° W

 

How to Stay Focused During Quarantine

Taking classes during quarantine is already hard enough…you also want me to stay focused?! This request is absurd for some folks. Today, I’ll show you a few ways in which you can not only stay concentrated in your work or studies for long periods of time, but you can also voluntarily shift your focus at anytime you want.  If you want to see how, then read further! I will show you the steps in which you can do this as simple as possible.

How to Stay Focused in Quarantine
How to Stay Focused in Quarantine

Have you ever just woken up and hit the snooze button because your body and mind feels exhausted? If you said YES, then this is where you must start to reconnect with yourself. In order to stay focused during quarantine, you MUST have a disciplined morning routine that allows your body and mind to be in a peak state throughout the day. A wasted morning will just set you up to be less productive during the day. Many students and individuals in the workforce wake up and automatically use their phone. They swipe until their morning’s gone… read more

The 20 Unit Spring: A Cautionary Tale

I took 20 units this semester. That’s 5 classes total. The minimum amount of units I have to take in L&S is 13. Most students take 16 units. That’s 4 classes.

Before I get into my experiences, I should explain what units mean exactly. The number of units a class is assigned is based off of hours of work needed to put into each class outside of the predetermined lecture and section time. The reason students usually stick to around 16 is because more than that tends to start to be overwhelming and very time consuming, as I now know first hand.

Disclaimer: 20 units is 100% doable. If you want to take an extra class one semester and you’re committed to it and dedicate the time to getting everything done then nothing is stopping you from enrolling. Is 20 units 100% advisable? Probably not. But fear not! I’m here to give you the humanities version of how it goes.

This spring, I chose to enroll in 20 units because I was bored last semester. Spending all day in my house simply was not doing it for me. My entire life was put online, and that really sucked. My solution to this boredom? An extra class. When I was going through the enrollment process last semester I could not for the life of me decide between 2 classes that I really wanted to take. I made pros and cons lists, I flipped a coin, my mind simply could not be made up. In the fall, I was far from academically stimulated. Classes were still kind of weird because of the online adjustment and I was just craving more from my studies.

Fast forward to January and the first week of school. Initially it wasn’t much different than last semester, but then we really shifted into gear. You might be thinking that if you take 6 or 7 classes in high school how can 5 college courses be that much harder than 4. That was me, so young and naïve in November 2020.

As a humanities major, 2 humanities majors actually, all of my homework is essentially reading. Which honestly I love, I’m so dedicated to both philosophy and rhetoric and I knew that they were reading and writing based. But the amount of pages I have to read a week went up by 100. I will say, a large part of the difficulty I’m facing is because the classes I chose are foundational to each of my majors so of course they’re going to have a little bit more work because they’re preparing you for the upper division classes.

The biggest mistake I made was enrolling in 5 classes the same semester I needed to take a class called Phil 100: Methods.

Methods is a class every philosophy major has to go through, and it is not fun. Essentially, it’s a class teaching you how to write a good philosophy paper because it’s very different from a paper you’d write in any other department. This class meets every Wednesday for 2 hours, where we are assigned 20-50 pages of reading and an essay prompt that we have to complete by Sunday 6pm. Did I know I’d be writing an essay every week? No I did not, no one told me. If I could go back with this information I probably wouldn’t have taken 5 classes in the semester where I write an essay every week, but hey, you live and you learn.

To make things clear, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest (thank you for listening), I don’t regret my decision to take 20 units. Sure it’s a lot of work but I feel like I’m in college again which I haven’t felt for a while. Maybe it’s a destructive coping mechanism for dealing with the fact that I’ve spent 3.5 of my 5 semesters here online, but I’m no psychology major.

In all seriousness, I’m half way through my 20 unit semester and I’m feeling good. If you’re interested in doing the same one day, I would probably tell you to only do it if you absolutely need to and to look into each class you want to take in that time so you’re not too overwhelmed. I stand by my sentiment that it’s 100% doable, just don’t rush into it head first like I did.

Would I have done this if we were in person like nothing had ever gone wrong? Absolutely not. With extracurriculars and friends and free time I would not want to tack on a 5th class. To emphasize: I made this decision because of the lack of stuff in my day to day life. I’m filling an academic void in my heart that can really only be filled by the philosophy library in Moses Hall. For the time being, I’ve thrown myself into more rhetoric than I ever thought I could handle in one semester. In a way, it’s empowering to be succeeding despite the hurdles 5 classes present in trying to get good grades.

If you don’t see a post from me ever again, know that I drowned in assigned reading and essays, but I went down with a fight.