Earlier this week I represented UC Berkeley at an Exchange Expo (also known as study abroad) at my host university in Sydney. I decided to volunteer for a couple of hours because I knew it would be really helpful for students who wanted to know more about our school, the UC system in general and California. That morning, I was quite excited as I threw on my UC Berkeley hoodie, but also nervously hoped that I could really help the students that had any questions. Little did I know that answering one question after another is all I would be doing.
The majority of us UC Berkeley students were beyond stoked when we found out that we had been accepted to the best university out there (if I do say so myself). This excitement only lasted for about six weeks during our first semester though, and then we began feeling the pressure of endless midterms and essays. I think we can all agree on saying that it wasn’t long until the thrill of UC Berkeley slowly died down. It’s only too easy for us to take for granted the fact that we get to call ourselves Golden Bears for the rest of our lives.
I only realized just how valuable attending UC Berkeley was after I had gone as far as possible from the Bay Area. At the study abroad fair, it only took one glance at my hoodie before a student did one of two things: gasp and let out a “wow,” or launch into a series of questions. From what I could gather, there was a minimum grade (like a GPA) for each university that a student may want to study abroad at, and UC Berkeley has one of the highest requirements. Initially, many thought I went abroad to UC Berkeley. When they discovered that I attended the university though, they were not only amazed at my supposedly stellar grades, but began asking me a plethora of questions to feed their curiosity.
The most common question I got was, “so how’s Berkeley?” Besides this being the broadest question possible, I also didn’t know where to start. UC Berkeley has definitely bestowed on me a fair share of stress, anxiety, sleep-deprivation and surmounting pressure. However, it has also been a place that has challenged me physically, mentally and emotionally. With this, I have been forced to grow and mature into someone who can now handle just about anything. I’m definitely not the person I was before I entered college, but I’m content with that.
I didn’t want to unpack all of that onto the eager students standing in front of me, so I went with, “it’s a pretty amazing place,” instead. I found myself constantly talking about the level of school spirit and community we have as Golden Bears, our beautiful historical campus and student involvement in activities they’re passionate about (although I did make sure to omit the wild flying on Sproul Plaza).
I had never experienced the reputation of UC Berkeley in such a way before. It was a pretty surreal experience and one that will ensure I don’t take for granted again. My time at UC Berkeley isn’t going to last forever, but I’ve promised myself that, when I return to campus, I’ll be more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed than a Berkeley squirrel.
Contact Jenisha Sabaratnam at [email protected].