Four Years | English Columnist Janet Kim
I am absolutely terrified. How am I going to get a footing into this huge school? Who are all of these people in my dorm? How am I going to make friends?
Also, where the hell is my class? What is a Sutarjadai? What’s a Moffitt? Oh, they’re campus buildings. Uhh, how do I read this map? Why are my classes so far?!
I know I should be used to waking up at 7AM by now but I still can’t do it. How many classes have I missed so far this semester? 3? Oh, more like 10. I mean, that’s still fine… Right?
Why are people throwing flyers at me? What’s PBL? Peanut Butter Lemon? I’m so confused.
Everyone on my dorm floor wants to go to a frat party together. I’m so nervous. My first college party.. Will they think I’m cool enough? I never really drank or partied in high school. Maybe I won’t fit in. What should I wear?
Woah, that party was crazy. Oh god. I feel like I’m gonna barf-
Moving out of the dorms, but I’m so used to having all of my friends right there. Next door, across the hall, downstairs. How am I going to do cook for myself? How am I going to adjust to NOT living with 30 other people? Am I gonna get along with the friends I’m going to live with? Or is this gonna break us?
I guess I need to start thinking about what major I should plan on declaring in.
How about Computer Science? I could barely even finish Hog. This is definitely way too much for me.
Haas? Ugh, but so many Haas-holes and the professors are so pretentious. Next.
Econ? Ooh, not as many requirements. Useful and practical but also not impossible. Econ it is.
Hm, living in my own apartment is not nearly as bad as i thought it would be. But why do my roommates always have people over? Why are my next door neighbors always throwing ragers on Thursday nights?!
I can’t believe I’m not a freshman anymore…
Why are upper divs so hard? How am I going to find an internship this summer? Where do I even begin?
What if I do badly in my classes and don’t even end up declaring this major? What do I even want to do with my major?
I know it’s my third year here, but I am still struggling so hard.
I guess I’m more used to Berkeley, now, though.
“Oh yes- To get to Evans, just walk straight past that building over there and it should be the ugliest building to your left! You’re welcome!”
So I’ve been applying to a million internships but I haven’t heard back from any. I’m screwed.
My GPA is so low… Guess I’m gonna have to dedicate this year to making up for slacking off in freshman and sophomore year…
Time to get serious.
Finally here. I have made it through the intensely regimented system that is UC Berkeley and somehow, I am still alive and breathing. I think. The past four years have been, in precise mathematical terms, only 4/21ths, or 19% of my entire life. Yet, I can say with absolute certainty that they have been the most significant.
Looking back at who I was when I first entered this massive Minesweeper game of a school, I was lost and directionless. For those of us who came from under the watchful eyes of our parent figures and families, the thought of freedom was likely equally frightening and invigorating. It felt as if someone had dropped me into the dead center of a large, never-ending maze. It was up to me to find my way out, and it was more than likely that I would have to encounter multiple dead-ends along the way.
Well, I did.
Throughout college, I have experienced both the best and the worst times of my life. From failed friendships/relationships to lost academic endeavors, there were times at Berkeley when I felt like all of the odds were stacked against me. But it wasn’t until this year that I began to realize how these losses shaped me as a person and taught me how to be more resilient and reflective about the things that I encounter throughout my life.
For the first chunk of college, I struggled with finding a community and a network that I could fully connect with. I was unfamiliar with many clubs and organizations on campus and as a result, was restricted to a very small subset of people on campus with whom I could interact with on a daily basis. On the reverse, sometime around my sophomore year, I began to actively participate in organizations on campus and meet a diverse array of people- all of whom came from immensely different backgrounds.
Despite the abundance of people around me, I felt a certain shallowness with the relationships I had built and could not help but to feel alone- even within a large crowd of familiar faces. Almost like grazing the inside of a soft linen coat but walking away without any recollection of its texture, I walked away from many of those relationships untouched. But over the years, as the surface-level relationships began to whittle away, the strong ones remained. I had realized that it was the work of time. Just as time evolved, so had I . And the people who had been the most accepting of this transition were the ones who are still by my side today.
That is not to say that the people who you remain with until the end of these four years move perfectly in tandem with you through your interests, personalities, or even cultural values. In fact, more often than not, those who remain are entirely different from you but are willing to present challenges that help you inch closer toward your true, inner-self.
Even after declaring Economics, I felt very little connection to the subject and simply saw it as a means to categorize myself into one of the many buckets of UC Berkeley’s vast major list. In this day and age, pursuing career paths and education goals solely based on one’s passions is rare. What are the chances that every Computer Science major is fully dedicated to and passionate about the subject? Slim.
Regarding the passion for my studies, I believe the people around me played the biggest role in helping me feel more connected. As I saw my fellow classmates fight for socialism, scream obscenities at posters of Trump on campus and protest the excessive existence of Birkenstocks on the Berkeley Campus, I wanted to talk to them. And in order to talk to them, I had to educate myself first.
And on Berkeley’s campus, the beauty of these conversations lie mostly in the perspectives they are presented in. An economics major such as myself may approach a certain subject with a more pragmatic and economical lens, whereas an english major would likely approach the same subject through a more poetic and analytical one. I have had no choice but to immerse myself in the intelligence, passion, and wisdom of my peers. Educating myself through academics as well as current social issues has given me the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with some of the most brilliant and beautiful souls I have ever come across.
My views on academics have likewise, changed. The most valuable form of education does not come from our textbooks or the massive chalkboards at the forefront of the lecture hall, but rather from each other and the things happening around us. We are currently in one of the single-most culturally and historically significant periods of American history. Through witnessing social movements such as Black Lives Matter to living through the direct transition from the first black President to a wildly conservative white one, we are all the products of massive change. I have learned so much throughout these past four years that amount to much more than simple crystallized intelligence that come from the classroom.
Truth be told, four years is not a long time. It may seem like a long time to be spending pulling all-nighters at Moffitt Library or finishing problem sets on the nights before they are due; however, the years pass by in the blink of an eye. Everytime people ask what year I am in college, I grow a little more shocked at myself. I too was a freshman learning to navigate the campus and sign up for the correct classes, in what seems to be like, for me, a few days ago. But what seems like a few days ago amounts to four full years.
The harsh reality is that four years were not nearly enough time for me to accomplish everything I wanted. Almost half of that time was just spent on discovering what it was I wanted to accomplish. How could 8 semesters be enough for me to do everything I wanted to do?
They weren’t enough. But they also were.
Throughout these four years, I have seen myself change continuously to ultimately be shaped into the person I am today. Me today is still largely imperfect, but is a huge leap ahead of where I was four years ago. Me four years ago would have never batted an eye at the stretches of homeless people suffering cold winter nights, me four years ago would have never truly listened to the opinions of those whom I could not relate to, and me four years ago would have never challenged myself to change. On the contrary, me today is empathetic, me today is open-minded, me today is more knowledgeable, and me today is more…me.
The lessons I have learned throughout my years of college will not remain confined within the borders of the university. I will continue to take them with me throughout the rest of my life and I will also continue to challenge myself to emulate the growth I have seen during my years at Berkeley. I look forward to seeing how my college years will have impacted me far down the road, but for now, all I know is that I am not ready to leave yet. Even as I am writing this, I feel the lump in my throat and the tears welling in my eyes as I look back on these past four years. And damn, I am proud.
Thank you, UC Berkeley.