Reflections on a first semester

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Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

I read once that within 60 seconds of meeting people, we’ve already passed judgment on them.

The first few weeks of college were filled with an endless muddle of these moments: new faces and never-ending smalltalk. We freshmen mindlessly asked and answered the same series of questions: name, hometown, major.

“Everyone is just a shade of someone you’ve already met,” I’d tell myself before each interaction. And like that, it became easy to categorize the new characters in my life, mentally storing them into folders labeled “tortured artists,” “Napoleon complexes,” “alpha males” and so on. I found this to be comforting.

I expected that when I found people who fit in the same category I did, I’d have met my friends. Because in a school of 25,951 undergraduates, you’d think you’d meet at least a few people who are just like you. But it didn’t happen that way.

With three weeks left in my first semester at Berkeley, I find that many of the people whom I regularly walk to classes, eat meals or go out on weekends with vary widely in terms of interests and personalities. I just don’t think of this as a bad thing anymore.

I’ve always been a person who wants to experience as much as possible, but fear and shyness have often held me back. When I didn’t know enough people attending a party, invitations were traded for Netflix reruns. I’d eat lunch at school alone rather than ask to sit with a group of people I only kind of knew. My apprehension almost caused me to withdraw from participating in a summer program across the country.

With friends who are different from you, however, come new experiences and adventures. “Peer pressure” has a negative connotation, but this year I have found that it can also be a positive force. It turns out that sometimes all you need is a push to try something you never thought you’d do.

Earlier in November, my roommate — a gregarious blonde — told me that she’d “refuse” to let me sleep through the Big Game festivities, as I had every other gameday.

Not part of a sorority and with little to zilch knowledge about football, I was doubtful I’d enjoy attending any game day party hosted by a fraternity or sitting through a sporting event lasting god-knows-how-long.

It took some convincing and blasting E-40 as I tried to sneak back under my covers. But eventually I crawled out of bed and went to celebrate the Big Game.

Admittedly, the day of the Berkeley-Stanford game wasn’t the best of my life. I left the fraternities with my new shoes soaked in cheap alcohol and only made it through about 30 minutes of the football game before calling it quits. Nonetheless, the day remains memorable because it was a completely new experience.

Another time, my floormates somehow convinced me to take the BART with them to a club in San Francisco where a friend was DJ-ing. The only dance I’d attended in high school was prom, because I recognized that I was — and still am — a terrible dancer. Still, it was free and I was curious, so I went with them.

The club was different from what I’d expected. I was surrounded less by drunk and fun 20-somethings and more by employees of local tech giants longingly watching young girls dance from across the floor.

I left a bit disillusioned and hated myself the next day after going to bed at 4 a.m. But again, if nothing else, it was a unique experience.

Although my ideal weekend probably wouldn’t consist of walking home with beer-soaked black vans or dancing at a club surrounded by creepy 30-something-year-old digerati, I’m glad I went out instead of taking a nap or two. Each new experience that I had previously pigeonholed as “just not for me” made my world just a bit bigger. And I owe this to the people I met in the past semester.

Almost four months into college, and my new friends aren’t at all like me, as I had originally imagined. But while the people who become a part of our lives aren’t necessarily who we expected, or maybe even wanted, I’ve learned here that they are almost always who we needed.