This post was a letter written to high school seniors as they graduated high school and began to look forward to college. Hope you enjoy!
Cue “Pomp and Circumstance”
Cue families hugging and crying while hugging their new graduates
Cue me living in ignorant bliss, rocking in the corner of my room, and refusing to leave my wonderful home that is UC Berkeley.
Believe it or not, the next four years ahead of you are going to go by so fast that you too will soon be faced with your own graduations. The next four (or four and a half or five) years will pass by like a blink of an eye, but leave with stories and memories that will last a lifetime.
So, as you prepare for some of the best years of your life, I encourage you to look back at how far you’ve already come and begin to learn more about yourself as you embark on your next chapter in life. Below is a little bit about my journey in college and how it shaped me to the person I have been today, in hopes that it can help you prepare for what is to come and recognize how far you’ve already come since you were a freshman in high school four years ago.
Four years ago I travelled from Southern California to attend school at the #1 public university in the world- the University of California, Berkeley. After choosing to decline my offer from my “dream” school (I put that in quotes because it turns out that it really wasn’t my dream anymore) and accepting the fact that Berkeley didn’t offer my major, but offered similar courses, I choose to take a change on this beautiful university and see what would happen.
I will admit, it was rough. Coming to Cal as a freshman from a conservative hometown during the Occupy protests was a huge shock. Being surrounded by some of the smartest students in the world was intimidating. And realizing that I was taking classes at a much higher rigor than I expected definitely shook my self confidence.
But, I met some of the greatest humans of my life. From my First Floor Family that I met on my dorm floor my first week of college, to my friends in the marching band that spanned across sections, grade levels and majors, to my sorority sisters, who, no matter when they joined, will always have my back. And with these people I was okay.
Those late night panic attacks when I thought I would fail a class, or when I didn’t get the internship I wanted, or when I lost a member of my family… they have been there through it all and they are the ones who have made Berkeley feel like a home- even when I felt like I didn’t belong. They have been my foundation, celebrating good grades with me and letting me cry on their shoulder when I didn’t get whatever I worked so hard for.
Looking back at my college years, I feel like I’ve done it all… band, Greek life, school spirit, research positions, classes from tons of different departments, study abroad, a thesis, activism, student government… and yet, at Cal, I feel like there were so many more things that I never got to do.
You see, the wonderful and terrifying thing about going to a school like UC Berkeley is realizing that you have endless opportunities, but only four years to make it all happen. Every single class exposes you to new perspectives and issues that our generation must face, and it becomes overwhelming to try to do everything. The catch? You simply can’t. And it’s taken me four years to realize that that’s okay. You tackle what you can, commit to something, and make a difference there.
So here’s my pitch for looking for a college to fit your needs. Follow your heart and challenge yourself. There will be a campus that you immediately step onto and feel at home. There will be a university that you just can’t say no to (even if you’ve already said yes to another) and you will have no idea why. There will be some school that steals your heart, even when your mind is weary. Go there.
As for challenging yourself, college is a unique opportunity to leap out of your comfort zone and learn inside and outside the classroom. For me, this meant leaving the comfort of Southern California and my imaginary life that I had planned out since I was in middle school. It meant going somewhere where I knew basically no one and putting myself out there to make new friends. It meant that I would have the experience to experiment with classes in astronomy, sociology, economy, music, environmental policy and anthropology before finally choosing to study political science and human rights.
And it meant that I was exposed to so many new ideas, people, and internal conflicts that I never thought existed. In essence, I challenged myself and I learned. A lot. So much that I think my brain and my heart my explode with knowledge and longing to be reunited with my one true love.