‘Not sure what’s next’: Looking back on my time as a student

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I’m writing this from my kitchen in my dorm in Scotland. It’s 10:18 p.m. in St Andrews, or 22:18 if you go by the 24-hour clock, which they do seem to prefer over here. I’m the only one up in our communal space right now, as my flatmates are all buried away in their rooms sleeping or studying for finals.

As I sit here, at the bar, I can’t help but look back on my time here as a student, not only at St Andrews but also at UC Berkeley. When Dec. 21 rolls around and I get on the plane, I won’t just be going back home for Christmas, I’ll be going back for good. This is my last semester as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, and I’m not sure what’s next for me.

I can remember in the spring of 2016 opening my acceptance letter in total shock as the confetti fell down to congratulate me when I had gotten into UC Berkeley. Even then, I could hardly believe it, but my mom and I were both ecstatic.

As someone from Southern California who was knee-deep in finals at my community college, I knew I wasn’t going to have a chance to actually visit the campus before I made my decision. Luckily, UC Berkeley hosted an info session in Orange County, and I took my mom with me in high hopes.

Part of the reason why I was a nontraditional student was that I couldn’t afford to go to a four-year school straight out of high school, and so, I had taken my time figuring out just what it is I wanted to do.

As an older student, I wasn’t even fully sure I deserved to “start over” in a new city at 25. I can remember so much of my decision riding on knowing what sort of aid I could expect as I wandered into the info session with my mom that evening.

They had student ambassadors there to tell us about their experiences, including those who also spoke about how finances had been a deterrent for them until they saw the aid they could expect at UC Berkeley. They also explained that opportunities such as studying abroad were possible for students like them and like me.

From the moment I got home, I knew I had made my decision. With my parents in the kitchen that night, I accepted my offer of admission, which set me on my course to being a student at UC Berkeley.

Part of the transfer experience is feeling like you’re behind before you’ve even started. As a spring transfer, for some, this can feel especially true.

But when I was matriculating to UC Berkeley, we took an online course before orientation what was then called CalSO, and which ended with the representative encouraging us and saying, “You’re not behind — you’ll do beautifully here.”

That stuck with me, even as I, like many other transfer students, hit the ground running, knowing we had only half the time to accomplish what many other students might want to achieve in their time at UC Berkeley.

When I transferred to UC Berkeley in January of 2017, I was set on becoming a professor in literature, and I’m still making my way toward potentially doing that, but I’ve found a lot more too.

Sometimes life has a way of intervening in on your plans, but that’s not always such a bad thing.

That first summer, I took part in the Berkeley Global Internships program in Dublin, Ireland, at a publishing house and found that I enjoyed working in editing too.

While I was there, my boss encouraged me to pursue writing. I’d always enjoyed helping other people write, whether it was through tutoring or editing, but I had not really thought much about my own ability.

Because of his advice, I applied for The Daily Californian. But this wasn’t until after I came home, crashed for about 48 hours and then had to go back to Berkeley early because I was going to be busy as a Golden Bear Orientation leader.

There’s something about UC Berkeley that makes you want to be a part of everything — a sort of unending FOMO that can be both a great motivator or a detriment to your mental health if you don’t get enough rest.

While I was waiting to hear back from the Daily Cal, I told myself that if I got in, I would take that as a sign to do the journalism minor program, and well … the rest is history.

It’s true that I don’t know what I will do with my journalism minor just yet, but you don’t always know how a class or an internship or club you took part in will influence your semester or even your future. One thing I’ve learned is that every part of my experience, both before and at UC Berkeley, has helped shape me into the person I am today.

I know that the classes I took and the teachers that mentored me and the people that befriended me will be experiences I take with me to wherever I go next. It’s bittersweet for my time here to come to an end, but I’m grateful for what it’s meant to me and my future, as a writer, potential maybe-teacher and forever Golden Bear.

Contact Lauren West at [email protected] .