Those eight student ID numbers

When I came to Cal, I was 50 pounds overweight and had an unhealthy dependence on phone calls back home and the fashion sense of an EECS professor. Needless to say, like most freshmen, I had my fair share of concerns. Chief among them was the worry that I would soon become nothing but that student identification number that I had to scribble on every page — EVERY PAGE — of all those exams … You would think staples were more reliable, right? Anyway, the truth is, that number was a challenge to me and to all Cal students to define ourselves outside the confines of those eight seemingly anonymous digits.

From epic battles with Tele-BEARS to climbing the curve, we all know that getting to graduation has not been easy. But behind the rigor of the curriculum and difficulty associated with the bureaucracy of a large school such as Cal, my peers seem to agree that UC Berkeley has been a four-year lesson in self-discovery for all of us. As a grateful and proud member of the Cal community, it has become clear to me that the sheer size and rigor of the university that help make UC Berkeley the No. 1 public institution in the world also allow for an incredible amount of diversity. It is this diversity that has allowed me to build my own personal Berkeley experience.

As a certified orchestra dork, I found comfort through the captivating energy of director David Milnes and the camaraderie of the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. I found hope among the (surprisingly large) contingent of LGBTQ Berkeley College Republicans who are fighting to bring social reform to the Republican Party. I am thankful for the tight web of support my fellow Haas and econ undergraduates have built among one another, helping one another compete for the best jobs against students from other universities. I am thankful to the queer community, and particularly Out 4 Business at Berkeley, who helped me turn crippling fear and shame into strength and happiness. I am thankful to the Greek community for allowing me to vicariously experience the fun that makes you all an amazing part of campus life. Most of all, I am thankful for you, the Berkeley student, for going out of your way to make a UC Berkeley education a remarkable experience for me, your friends and your classmates.

I encourage you to reach out and thank a friend, teacher or adviser who challenged your perceptions or pushed you to your academic limits. They likely had a large hand in helping you define who you are at Berkeley and will be in your future pursuits, because this is the beautiful nature of the Cal community. With all that in perspective, I know when I write my SID on all umpteen pages of my various finals that it will not be meaningless, it will be a badge of honor. It represents one of the faces of UC Berkeley among many other faces that are no longer strangers but friends.

James Presley-Nelson was co-president of Out 4 Business at Berkeley and  managing editor of the California Patriot for the fall 2013 and spring 2014 semesters. He is graduating with bachelor’s degrees in business administration and economics.