You step into your freshly decorated dorm room after a final goodbye brunch with the parents. You glance over at your new roommate as you settle into your suddenly overwhelming awareness that for quite possibly the very first time in your life, you are alone. You have nobody telling you that you can’t go out, nobody telling you to do your homework, but also nobody who really “gets” you, yet. You can do whatever the hell you want, be whoever the hell you want, and for at least the next couple weeks, you probably will.
When we are thrown into a new environment, it can be easy to get carried away. It can be easy to focus so hard on meeting people, trying to come across a certain way, giving off a certain vibe and engaging in certain kinds of antics that we forget why we really came to UC Berkeley in the first place. We forget the kind of person we wanted to be, the kind of person we had hoped Cal would help us to become and the kinds of people we wanted to surround ourselves with. We forget that it won’t matter how many people appreciate us if we can’t appreciate ourselves. We forget that with all our newfound freedom and fun, we are also faced with many difficult choices.
The truth about Welcome Week is that no matter how many team building activities and rounds of “Two Truths and One Lie” your RA makes you play, nobody can force you to make friends. Building relationships can be hard, especially in an already new and overwhelming environment. Just remember that everyone else is in the exact same position as you. Odds are the rest of your floor, hall and class is just as nervous about the transition to UC Berkeley as you. Odds are that the kid down the hall from you would in fact like to go to Crossroads with you tonight. Odds are your roommate, who you barely know, would like to live with someone they’re actually friends with.
Welcome Week should be about you. It’s a great time to figure out what you want out of Cal. Whether that means joining 50 different campus organizations, boarding a Co-op, going Greek, writing for the Daily Cal, joining a team — that’s for you to decide! You don’t have to go to Calapalooza to join a club. Just try to find something you’re interested in, and don’t be afraid if you don’t know anyone! You’ll have a more meaningful time and get more out of what you’re involved with if you do it with genuine interest.
College is a great place to reinvent yourself and shed that less than optimal high school reputation you carried for the past four years, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be yourself. It won’t matter how many “friends” you make if you can’t show them the real you. So go ahead and introduce yourself to every human you cross paths with for the next week. Mob down Piedmont with a gaggle of fast friends you just met in the dining hall. Sit next to somebody new in lecture. Chances are, a few of the people you talk to throughout this week will be your friends for life, so don’t be afraid to open up and let them in!
That being said, you shouldn’t feel the need to be “on” all the time. You don’t need to become best friends with everyone you meet. You don’t need to like everyone you meet. You don’t even need to pretend to. UC Berkeley is a gigantic place, and if there’s one thing to be said about that size, it’s that there are people like you here. You just have to find them. And, despite the social norms, you might not meet them at Unit 3’s ice cream social, you probably won’t impress anybody getting plastered at frat parties and you almost certainly won’t have friends in every class you take here. College can be lonely and you’ll probably need to figure out a new way to be at peace with yourself throughout your journey here. Be willing to push yourself out of your comfort zone and figure out the kind of person you are. At the end of the week, you’ll be glad you did!