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Insight Alma Mater: UC Berkeley

Welcome back to Insight Alma Mater! For those of you that haven’t ready last weeks blog, written by counselor Jenny Huang, make sure you go back and read that one first as today’s story picks up right where that one left off. Insight Alma Mater – UC Santa Barbara. 


When I attended UCSB, I didn’t plan on transferring to UC Berkeley.  Really, I didn’t plan on transferring. Period.  However, in-a-blink-of-an-eye, I transferred to Berkeley, which reshaped my perception of college.


When I came to Berkeley, I was very shocked with how different it was from Santa Barbara.  Countless boba shops replaced Blenders (a fantastic smoothie shop in SB); a cool, NorCal breeze replaced the warm, SoCal sun; and the hilly, pedestrian-filled campus replace the flat, skateboard-friendly campus I was used to.  There were so many changes—how do I adapt to all of them?


My answer: trying my best to embrace these changes, meaning trying out unique activities offered at Berkeley.  For example, I always wanted to learn how to dance, but I never had the opportunity to; thus, one semester, I joined a dance team on Berkeley campus.  Performing during showcase was one of the most memorable memories I have at Berkeley. I heard that Berkeley offers DeCals, which are school-approved classes, run by students who are passionate about a certain subject that they would like to teach other students; for a semester, I taught a beginner language and culture class. I’ve also taken other Decal classes at Berkeley to learn more about topics I was curious about. Lastly, navigating Berkeley as a transfer student wasn’t the easiest for me, so I wanted to help prospective transfer students. Consequently, I joined Starting Point Mentorship Program, where I mentored community college students with transferring to a 4-year institution. By constantly taking advantage of the opportunities present at Cal, it reminded me to be thankful for the many avenues available that I would not have had if I didn’t attend this school.


In addition, one humbling lesson I’ve embraced at Cal is reaching out to those around me. Berkeley can be a pretty lonely place without a strong support system. I’m extremely grateful for the people I’ve met through the activities I was a part of. They supported me and carried me during my time at Berkeley. Ultimately, they made the campus feel warmer, despite the cool, NorCal breeze.


1. You were accepted for a reason— you are with some of the brightest minds, so it is easy to feel that you aren’t good enough.  However, remember that the admission officers chose YOU. You deserve to be at this school!!
2. Be involved (but don’t bite off more than you can chew)—There are countless clubs, Decals, research opportunities etc. at Cal. I definitely encourage you to try new activities; further your passion in activities you already enjoy etc.  However, don’t bite off more than you can chew! You’ll burn out.
3. Utilize Bear Walk or walk home with a group of friends, especially at night—Always use Bear Walk or walk with friends at night. Carry pepper spray and learn how to use it.
4. It’s a semester system school—You’re learning 15 weeks of material. That’s a lot of material.  Be sure to stay on top off it by reaching out to professors; GSIs; and classmates. Also, don’t waste your RRR week (the week before finals week, where there are no classes).  It’s a great time to reach out to professors and GSIs for last minute questions
5. Above all, build community (through clubs, res hall, classes etc.) and reach out. Your health is most important—Berkeley can be a lonely place if you don’t have a good support system.  Reach out to those people if you are struggling in any way by utilizing office hours; going to academic advising; seeking professional help if need you.


Jenny graduating from UC Berkeley!


Final Thoughts about Berkeley
While I no longer had the ocean as my backyard in Berkeley, this metaphor still extends to my time there: sometimes the waves were calm, other times the waves were rough.  However, it’s during this time that I grew stronger and became more resilient.


Final Thoughts about College
If you read my post about my experience at UCSB, you’ll realize that the “final thought” section is quite similar: no matter which college you attend, it won’t always be smooth-sailing. 

In addition, I tried to emphasize the importance of community. Some of my most memorable college experiences involved having a meaningful conversation with someone on the beach; going out to club events; and being present with people who I care about.  They’ve helped me become a better version of myself, so the social aspect of college is as important as the academic component of college. 

Lastly, given my experience of being an undergraduate student at two amazing yet very different colleges, I can’t stress how important it is to choose the right college for you: this means reaching out to alum and hearing about their experience; visiting the college and attending a campus tour; maybe even asking a professor if you can sit in on a class sometime.  By trying to discern this now, you’re headed in the right direction for a worthwhile college experience…Good luck, and I wish you the best!


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