- Class: Senior
- Major: History
- Gender: M
- High School: Pacific Collegiate School
- Transfer Student: N
The best thing about Berkeley is the way it rewards people who know what they want from it. And the longer you go here, the more accurate your expectations are. You can learn a lot about music, or just about your major. You can develop life long friends, or set a strong career path for yourself, or most likely both. The size of the school is a both a blessing and a curse. It gives you the room you need to live how you want, provided you have some notion of what you want already. People outside of Berkeley tend to react well, and that is a source of real school pride. The school pride concerning the football team, though loud, is mostly a freshman experience, and has little to do with real feelings of pride about the school. ItÕs the intelligent and passionate people that you see on campus every day who really make the wheels turn. UC Berkeley is integrated humorously with the city of Berkeley, and there is a lot to learn from that. You can live far or close to the source of student energy near campus, and your experience will be shaped by that choice. Sometimes the distraction of student life is overwhelming, and sometimes the isolation of life down University Avenue or in Oakland can leave you hanging. But on telegraph, academia, homelessness and the hyphy movement tend to collide without regard for one another, and to great comic effect. The administration of the school, and the student government make a lot of noise, through sidewalk chalk and through the daily cal, but my experience is that they can be almost fully ignored without effecting your demeanor if you are good at saying ÒnoÓ to flyerers in the spring, and if you donÕt read email bulletins from the chancellor. It seems like students can be intimidated by the impersonal aspects of their Berkeley experience, and often feel like the academic and social aspects of the school are disconnected and donÕt support one another. But there is a lot of life and energy at UC Berkeley, and if you put in a little effort you can learn a lot about it.
The pace is fast, and somewhat relentless. You will have free time, but it fills itself up quickly, and effortlessly. If you choose to pursue what you want, you will have all the time you need for it, and with a big school like this, you will have friends to support you. If you wait for berkeley to cater to your time needs, you might get frustrated. There is exactly enough time to get what you want from this school, and it's very easy to stay here longer, provided your parents are willing to shell it out. The finest quality, however, is its size. Academically this means that you are in control of your experience, which is only truly helpful if you know what you want. You may choose to flounder, or to aggressively pursue a degree, and you will have an excellent time, if you are choosing to do it. Also, you have lots of freedom to develop relationships with professors. They can know your name, but you must make that effort. Because the size of the school is so large, there is always room at the library, and in office hours, and the impersonal environment gives even the smallest personal effort a high priority to a professor. Students are hardly as competitive as they seem and the educational system seems geared towards a well rounded experience. Classes are truly defined by their professors. Finding a good professor, like Carlos Norea in the History Department, and following them through their course curriculum, is a really good way to milk the UC Berkeley academic resource.
Feeling out of place at Berkeley can take a conscious effort. It's just too big for cliques to develop against one another. They usually develop out of their own right, and and discrimination seems more personal here, than group oriented. Even though Athletes tend to eat together, and music-oriented people (euphemism for hipsters) tend to follow the same trend, there is little genuine animosity between "groups" and that notion deconstructs itself slowly over the four years. My experience with fraternity brothers and athletes and music junkies and "gender explorers" in the classroom and on campus has been overwhelmingly positive. Once you leave the dorms, you have to CHOOSE to interact with the kinds of people that don't fit your ideal friend group. People will leave you alone, and if you met them outside of their scene, there would probably be respect, and maybe even kindness.
The Best Things
The student energy -- and your freedom to choose whether you want to be a part of it.
The Worst Things
The suspicion that there's always something you might have missed out on.