Like any new student at UC Berkeley, when I walked on campus for the first time, I was a little bit overwhelmed. Over these past four years, Berkeley has become my home. Even though I had to deal with a lot of challenges during my undergraduate time here, I am grateful for everything Berkeley has given me.
Berkeley Taught Me How to Solve Problems Quickly and Search for Resources
Throughout college, there were many different problems that I was presented with that pushed me to find resources and solutions on my own. Although it’s hard to admit, before college, whenever I was presented with problems I often just had my parents make the important calls and find resources for me. At Berkeley, I learned how to be more independent.
For example, after my first year I had to search for off-campus housing on a tight budget, a problem that many Berkeley students face. After reaching out to the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) center and asking other students for help, I ended up finding the Berkeley Student Co-Ops, which is affordable housing run and led by low-income students. Ultimately, UC Berkeley provides a ton of resources for students if you know where to look, which is something I always appreciated during my time here.
I Learned to Manage My Time and Be Organized
Let’s face it — Berkeley students have a lot of things on their plates. In my Junior year, I was taking 16 units, writing for the Daily Cal, working a Work-Study job, and had an officer position in a club all at the same time. So, I quickly learned how to juggle my different responsibilities and manage my time better.
One resource I frequently used to stay on top of things once I started college was Google Calendar, where I put my upcoming due dates, club meetings, and work schedules in one place. I also wrote down daily and weekly to-do lists on my phone and set reminders for them; that way I was able to see everything I needed to do and not forget about smaller assignments and discussion posts. Although I am still not perfect and sometimes double schedule meetings, I am now much more organized compared to my high-school self.
I Became a Stronger Leader
As a high school student, I always hesitated when it came to leading a large group. During my time here though, I pushed myself to do the things that I have always wanted to do.
During the end of my sophomore year and beginning of junior year, I became the Human Relations officer for Cal Rotaract, a community service club here on campus. Although I was really nervous to take on a position with about 10–12 hours of work a week, it pushed me to step up as a leader and learn to speak in front of large groups of people. Since I hosted diversity, equity, and inclusion workshops and conducted interviews with members of the club, the position helped mold me into a better leader.
My time as an officer for a big club on campus also pushed me to be much more outgoing and try my best to make everyone in the club feel welcome and comfortable with each other. As the Human Relations officer, I put in more effort to make sure people felt included during our socials, and like they knew someone in the club by greeting and signing people in during general meetings. Before I became an officer, I couldn’t have imagined that I was able to be that sociable.
I was also able to learn more about how much it takes to plan events, especially since I was in charge of the club’s Little-and-Big System and planning all of their socials. Before this position, I never realized the large amount of planning that was required to make sure that one social event would go well, such as developing the icebreakers, activities, and making sure we had a headcount of everyone who was coming.
I Got Out of My Comfort Zone and Gained Confidence
Before I started college, I lacked a lot of confidence in myself and didn’t really go too far out of my comfort zone. I quickly learned that in order to grow and make the most of my time here at UC Berkeley, I had to put myself out there more. When it came to applying for clubs or internships, I often doubted myself, but I started to take more risks. Once I was able to gain more responsibilities and grow more in both academics and extracurriculars, I found myself feeling much more confident in my capabilities.
I was especially scared when I applied for my current position as a Social Media Intern for Berkeley Life Instagram since it required me to put myself out there in videos and other social media content. Since I had a background in social media through the class Social Media and Journalism I took the semester before, I ended up getting the position. This job allowed me to become much more confident in my skin while sharing my love for Berkeley with others. Since I was able to film at big sporting events and be in touch with everything related to Berkeley, this position helped me grow more attached to this campus and see how amazing the Berkeley community can be.
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Ultimately, my undergraduate experience at Berkeley has given me a lot of resources that I wouldn’t have had if I went to any other college. Although Berkeley can be rigorous, it pushed me to become a better version of myself and helped mold me into the person I am today. Make the most of what Berkeley has to offer. At the end of your four years here, you will probably be a whole different person compared to your first-year self, too.
Samantha Herrera is a senior at UC Berkeley majoring in English and minoring in Creative Writing and Journalism.