Finding the ‘U’ in UC Berkeley

Off the Beat

At UC Berkeley, it’s very easy to feel like everyone needs to be molded into one thing, and one thing only. Being surrounded by coders who have been writing lines since their days in the womb and business students who are always ready to connect with you on LinkedIn, I felt this unspoken expectation that I had to choose one academic or career path and stick with it. And, whichever one I chose, I had to play by the rules of the game and “beat” the system to earn the straight As, avoid taking hard classes and come out on top with the fewest scratches and burns to truly be considered a “successful” UC Berkeley student.

Although many people accept this mentality, I realized I wanted more from my college experience than to just survive and graduate. It was a constant battle trying to decide if I wanted to conform to the standards of success set by any given community on campus or if I wanted to create my own path and do me. But in the end, I knew that I would only find fulfillment at UC Berkeley or any college if I chose the classes and pathways (and their intersections) that excited and sparked my curiosity, beyond the limitations of the traditional methods of achieving success.

For me, success and happiness will only be rightfully mine if created and fostered by myself and my values, my morals and my beliefs rather than it being a product of a predetermined formula. I already have my definition of success and happiness, and there is no GPA, course or even internship that could replace it. I lost sight of that here my first semester.

I came to college to experiment with my intellectual interests. And I truly want to take advantage of everything a higher education can offer. As a first-year student tossing back and forth between economics and business with the possibility of medical school wandering in and out of my mind, I knew that if I did not at least try everything, I would constantly feel a nagging sense of regret and doubt.

So, that’s exactly what I decided I was going to do: Try it all. Currently, I’m an intended major in economics and business, but I’m also dabbling in some of the premed requirement courses. Although seemingly different, I see a great overlap between all these interests, and I know I want to be somewhere in the middle of all that. How could I know for certain if a career or a course of study wasn’t right for me if I didn’t give it a try? Everything is fair game.

It’s not quite the real world yet, so if there ever a time in my life to try new things and step out of my comfort zone, it was now. That’s the beauty I see in college. This was my time to surround myself with many different types of people, try everything and unapologetically fail.

UC Berkeley offers so many opportunities to learn from some of the best scholars in the world, and I knew that this would be the one of the few times in my life I had access and resource to experts in every field, study and profession. At first, I spent a lot of time listening to what students on campus were telling me: Do this; don’t do this. Not only was it overwhelming, but it made me lose sight of what my visions, goals, and desires in life were. Now, I know to listen my gut and trust my own merits and qualities to uphold to my own ideas of success and happiness.

I didn’t want to settle. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me going after all the things I want. We only have one life on this Earth, and I want to be able to live as many different types of lives and walk in as many shoes as possible. And in that process, I hope to succeed, and more importantly, I look forward to failing and trying again. I’m going to take the power away from the concept of failure and see it as my chance to learn and experience.

It might be a little ambitious, but it’s the only way I can go to sleep at night without regrets. Now, more than ever, I’m looking forward to my future experience at UC Berkeley so I can seize any and all opportunities that come my way and make them mine. I know that eventually, I’ll have to sit down and choose a major and career, but that doesn’t mean it has to be one and one thing only. People end up living multiple careers and jobs, so why should I let that stop myself this early on from experiencing everything I can and having some fun?  

“Off the Beat” columns are written by Daily Cal staff members until the spring semester’s regular opinion writers have been selected. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @dailycalopinion.