Just as your high school years have finally come to an end, the thought of starting all over as a college freshman can seem intimidating. Being alone for the first time in a new environment is reason enough to feel a little bit anxious. But rest assured, your first semester at UC Berkeley will prove to be one of the most enlightening experiences with some of the best moments. Here are some of the things I’ve learned throughout my first year here:
- Changing your major is perfectly normal.
Don’t feel restricted to studying the major you selected on your college application. As clichéd as it may sound, college is the best time to learn about yourself and find what makes you tick. The season of college applications was ages ago, and there’s a strong chance that you are no longer as passionate about that topic you nervously picked out initially. With more than 100 majors offered, take the time to enroll in classes outside of your anticipated major. You may decide to change your major completely, or find a minor or two out of the adventure.
- Get involved on campus.
Being a part of an on-campus group is a great way to find a balance between academics and fun. The list of wonderful student organizations that you can join is endless. There’s a little bit of something for everyone here at UC Berkeley. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the countless possibilities and don’t know where to start, Calapalooza, the club fair held at the beginning of each semester, is a great way to narrow down your choices. You can also apply for one of many on-campus jobs to help you gain a little working experience.
- Start planning your living situation for next year sooner rather than later.
Your second semester will be composed of a lot of different elements, and make sure that apartment-hunting is one of them. Reasonable apartments are hard to come by, so when you find one, channel your adulting mode and ask for a showing before it gets rented out. There are tons of other options available, such as living in co-ops, living in campus housing or becoming a resident assistant.
- Explore Berkeley and San Francisco!
The benefits of coming to UC Berkeley don’t only involve its rigor and prestige in academia. Its Bay Area location offers countless things you can do on any given day. Hike the Big C. Head down to the Berkeley Marina. Visit the UC Botanical Garden. UC Berkeley provides students with their very own AC Transit cards, great for short travels such as going to watch movies in Downtown or grabbing brunch in Elmwood. When you finally get even the slightest bit tired of the Berkeley area, your provided Clipper card is perfect for taking longer trips to San Francisco, where you can purchase some new clothes on Powell Street, take a breath of fresh air at Mission Dolores Park, head to Fisherman’s Wharf for some fresh seafood and even visit the famed Golden Gate Bridge.
- Get rid of the “I need a 4.0” mentality.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get a 4.0. Prerequisite courses can be some of the hardest classes you’ll take here and are often referred to as “weeder” classes intended to be challenging for freshmen. Your grades don’t define you or your experience at UC Berkeley. When you find the material particularly difficult, be sure to take advantage of some of the great resources that’ll make your life easier — go to office hours, visit the drop-in tutoring at Student Learning Center or join a study group.
- Don’t over-pack! Dorm space is limited.
The typical freshman living situation at UC Berkeley is dorming in either a double or triple room, something to keep in mind when you’re packing your belongings. Although you swear that you may need a fifth pair of high heels, your closet will definitely not agree. The saying “less is more” really does apply here.
- Participate in game days!
Football season only comes around once a year, so don’t miss out. Be sure to participate in game days during your first semester and unleash your Cal camaraderie in the best way possible. You’ll truly miss watching the games at the stadium underneath the sun or going to tailgate parties with your friends. Student season passes are on sale now, so it’s the perfect time to buy.