UC Berkeley survival guide: what no one prepares you for

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Zainab Ali/File

It’s the season of CalSO and Summer Bridge, so the campus is abound with starry-eyed barely-legals wondering what to expect within the chaotic Greco-modern concrete-jungle that is our campus. Will the parties be as lit as those in “Blue Mountain State?” Will you meet your future spouse? Will you fail your first introductory class? Fear not, for we at the Clog are here to prepare you for what to expect and shed some moments of truth. In this formal letter, which we encourage you to pin on your wall and of course pass on to your future grandchildren, we’ll describe the cause of our sweat and tears and also why, ultimately, we wouldn’t trade our decision to attend UC Berkeley for the world.   

Dear newbies,

UC Berkeley is overwhelming, that’s a fact — even for the graduating senior in their last semester. Perhaps no amount of our encouragement, warnings and tips for success will fully prepare you for the experience awaiting you the second you step foot on campus. In fact, there’s no single UC Berkeley experience for it’s actually nuanced and different for every individual. This entirely depends on where you come from, what decisions you make once here, who you choose to associate with and what you’re looking for. But there are a few universal hard truths that you may confront once in college that’ll take you by surprise.

Many of you probably have long-distance high school sweethearts and may or may not choose to continue your relationships into college. You’ll be taken by surprise, however, as you stumble upon the death of monogamy as part of the college culture experienced primarily by underclassmen, otherwise known as “hookup culture.” It can be hard to reconcile this new freedom, whether you call it sexually liberating or debauched and depersonalized, when you’ve been so imbued with the ideals of monogamy.

For upperclassmen, memories of the classroom crush you have had for years and never had the courage to approach although you cherished the one time you made eye contact are either laughable or nostalgically sweet. If high school was the time for longterm relationships, college, for many, is the time to say “fuck it” and splurge before you’re once again locked down by monogamy.

Without a second thought to any apprehension or insecurity, which magically dissolves in beer, many a college student will approach the cute person they’ve been eyeing at the party and essentially gamble between a memorable night or a regrettable one they’ll wish they could erase. This sex-positive atmosphere is definitely a perk, but, for a good many, hooking up is just a phase before they rediscover how great emotional bonds are — except that this time they do so with a more mature mind and a stronger sense of self.       

You’ll make some of your greatest friends at UC Berkeley, being surrounded by amazing talents at every corner. That being said, you’ll make a lot of fair-weather friends as well. It may turn out that your freshman year roommate or your CalSO buddies don’t become your main squad and won’t end up coming to your wedding like you may have dreamed. And that’s OK.

You may meet your best friend when you coincidentally sit next to them in discussion section or awkwardly bump hands with them while taking a Recreational Sports Facility class. This phenomenon is in no way unique to Berkeley or college in general. But take advantage of the fact that you are surrounded by people from such diverse backgrounds, whom you would otherwise never get the chance to meet in other parts of your life. You’re no longer confined by the homogeneity of high school and, believe it or not, won’t be penalized for talking to new people.      

What hits all incoming Bears the hardest, however, is the competitiveness and sheer difficulty of lower division classes such as Chemistry 1A or Economics 1, otherwise known as the infamous “weeder” classes. Professors will grade harshly and work you to the bone to make sure you are on top of the material. For the first time, you might realize that classmates are not always your friends and you won’t be able to rely on them for help because they want the curve to be in their favor. After all, it’s common knowledge that helping a fellow classmate understand the material means jeopardizing your own chances of getting the highest score.

You may end up with half a letter grade or lower than you might have hoped, but Berkeley’s brutality will make you resilient and hopefully give you kick-ass study habits even if it has to be through a trial-and-error basis. Also, no matter what people say, things do get better once it’s time to take upper divisions. The academic competition is terrible, but after you bear it for the first couple years, you get the chance to engage with your field of study by taking upper divisions that interest you and are significantly less cutthroat.     

We strongly encourage you to keep a strong head on your shoulders if go into a mode along the lines of “I quit! I didn’t sign up for all this!” Trust us, we’ve all been there. Stay golden!

Sincerely,

The Clog (aka the greatest people you will ever meet)

Contact Angelica Zocchi at [email protected].