When we graduate high school, we usually leave the comfort of seeing the same friends and acquaintances we interacted with daily for four years. We leave a close and intimate space filled with tried-and-true relationships for a much less predictable life of going to college or working.
During my first semester at Santa Barbara City College, it felt strange not to wake up in my home with my siblings, and I felt a little lonely at first living with other students I hardly knew. When I moved up to Berkeley and began unpacking in my single dorm room, I felt strange and lonely all over again. In time, I made friends in both of these situations, which taught me to embrace solitude every once in a while as well as the importance of a few good friends.
Throughout the majority of my community college education, I resided with roommates in an apartment just steps from the college. The whole apartment complex was primarily occupied by students who all partied, barbecued and went to the beach together. During my first night in the apartment, I was invited to a party in the apartment downstairs — which gave me a chance to meet a lot of my neighbors.
I got lucky to live in an apartment complex filled with very social people, and it didn’t hurt that beer and vodka were involved. But eventually, those preliminary parties and small talk sessions turned into meaningful friendships. My roommates and I became incredibly close; we made dinner together, partied together and watched movies together. But when I transferred to UC Berkeley, my necessity for a large friend group changed because I found that I enjoyed my alone time and that sometimes constantly being surrounded by people is draining.
My roommates were a huge part of my life during community college because they helped make Santa Barbara and our apartment feel like home. All in all, we were kind of like a family. Like everyone who lives in a shared space, I experienced my fair share of roommate drama that ranged from a roommate who didn’t do her share of cleaning to a roommate who didn’t understand boundaries. Meanwhile, on campus, I usually only made the typical “class friends” whom I only interacted with during class and never really made plans to see outside of working on group projects or studying. I limited myself to being friends with my housemates and the people in my apartment complex because it was easy and convenient for me.
By the age of 21, I was over drinking copious amounts of alcohol and having parties in my living room. I grew out of the college life and vibe before I even transferred, which allowed me to better focus on my goals when I got to UC Berkeley. Living in a single in Stern Hall was ideal for my first year at UC Berkeley because, as much as I loved living with roommates and surrounding myself with other students, I got tired of sharing small spaces and the constant partying.
When I was applying to universities, I knew that I wanted to live on campus in some sort of dorm because it seemed like a luxury to me to live somewhere where the bathrooms are cleaned for you, your food is already made, and everything is somewhat centrally located in the building. Living on campus was the epitome of convenience for me and the ultimate student-friendly living situation.
My first year at UC Berkeley has given me the impression that making friends here isn’t as easy as it was in community college. Just living in the vicinity of other students did not mean I was going to have friends. It seemed to me that in order to make friends, because of my single room situation, it was pivotal to join clubs, sororities and fraternities and to put myself out there.
My single room in Stern Hall turned out to be the exact opposite of the apartment complex I lived in during community college. It was quiet, far from the lively Southside, up a steep hill and with only girls. I enjoyed and appreciated it in its entirety even when there was word that the other side of the building had a rat problem.
The few good friends I currently have here in Berkeley are those I met at Golden Bear Orientation, or GBO. I met other students who lived in the same dorm as I did and who were also transfer students. GBO gave me the opportunity to connect with other transfers who helped make my transition to UC Berkeley easier.
I came to Berkeley with the mindset that I wasn’t in search of lifelong friends. I reminded myself of the fact that I only have two years to make the most of my time, which I hoped to fill with academics and not frat parties. The few friends I have, whom I eat meals with and enjoy a glass of wine with in my dorm room, are enough for me.
Mixty Espinoza writes the Friday column on her experience as a first-generation transfer student. Contact her at [email protected]