It’s weird not being a student anymore. I’ve been attending one commencement reception or ceremony a day, trying to hold on to the nostalgia of being an undergrad.
Many people have asked how I feel about graduation, and I’ve managed to summarize most of my feelings in this farewell graduation column for the Daily Californian. While it’s ultimately a triumphant story, the 900-word limit forced me to condense my thoughts.
Here are some aspects of life at Cal that I want to explore further:
When I first visited Berkeley, I didn’t think the campus was all that special. Some buildings were nice, while others were simply depressing (looking at Evans). Now, I enjoy the fact that the campus is comprised of a hodgepodge of building styles. It reflects the Berkeley spirit.
During finals week, I visited every building on campus that I’d never been to before, taking photos along the way. As I explored the engineering, science, and law buildings tucked away at the edges of campus, I was reminded of how amazing it is to be a student at Berkeley, one of the best universities in the world. Even our squirrels are fearless and confident.
Although I enjoyed my time with the majors I chose, I should have explored more before settling down with them. There were times when I sat in literature classes and wondered, “Why does this even matter?” Mostly, I was disillusioned by the dense academic language and theoretical analysis, which I deemed less practical and accessible than other forms of writing, such as journalism.
In English classes, I felt as if I didn’t have enough authority as an Asian woman to comment on the works of white men such as Shakespeare. I much preferred discussing Confucius in Chinese literature classes. But I powered through my major requirements with the knowledge that Berkeley has a great English programs. In the end, I do enjoy the research and analytical skills I gained through comparative literature.
I added my music major because I loved playing in various ensembles in high school. To be honest, I wish I could have been involved with music at Berkeley without having to study it formally. But I did consider being a musician and composer my first two years here, and I can’t discredit my past. Now knowing how much I love interdisciplinary subjects, I would have chosen Cognitive Science or something technical to complement my literature major. But I did have fun performing and taking music classes with my brilliant music major peers, many of whom are double majors in various subjects like English, Molecular Cell Biology, or Physics.
I learned that collaboration is important to me. I envied the teamwork required in computer science classes through group projects. Writing papers for humanities classes is a lonely activity. My wishes were fulfilled when my group mates in CS61A (the introductory computer science course) ended up being great friends.
Despite all the jokes and stereotypes about Berkeley students being socially awkward nerds, I met plenty of engineers and scientists through music, Daily Cal, martial arts, and dance, who were perfectly capable of having fun (and enthusiastic about alcohol).
I myself am often cooped up in my apartment writing essays, so I value my time outside with other people. One downside to jumping between different activities is not having a solid group of friends besides my roommates and high school friends. I had my fair share of lonely nights and FOMO. But I loved having a variety of friend groups.
Not too much has changed about my substance use. I drink a little only when my friends do, and I’ve never smoked, despite Berkeley’s famous weed culture.
I also learned a lot by getting my heart ripped apart by members of the opposite sex. My heart is much stronger now.
Even though I knew the importance of exercise, I unfortunately was not very motivated to wake up early and run/lift in the morning. My RSF gym membership went mostly unused. I forced myself to exercise by signing up for Physical Education classes and joining martial arts or dance clubs. Through P.E., I was able to discover that I was pretty good at taekwondo and yoga, but not so great at tennis and basketball.
I have to admit, sleep often went out the window when I had deep conversations with friends or got addicted to TV shows. I regret wasting sleep time on TV, but spending precious time with friends was often worth staying up an extra couple of hours. I have never pulled an all-nighter, though. They aren’t worth the pain.
Career exploration/preparing for the real world
Over the last four years, I’ve thought about being a musician, a composer, and a journalist. Now, I’m a tech writer. Classes and the Career Center were useful guides, as well as quick Google searches for “What to do with an English major.”
Even though I’ve chosen a career path, the real world still scares me. I have to be ready for it, even if I don’t want to be. But Cal has instilled an incredible confidence in me. That’s the real value of a Berkeley degree.
This post is part of the Alphabet Project, where I write a post for each letter of the alphabet. It was inspired by Ash Huang’s Alphabet Meditations.
2 thoughts on “C for Cal: collegiate commentary from a recent Cal grad”
You are really amazing, Karen! Inspired by you!
Thank you Jenny!