The year I’ve been waiting for

In the summer of 2018, I spent the majority of my free time researching universities and California state schools and working on my personal essays. I made a list of all the schools I wanted to apply to and noted which schools were my top picks. The list was a way of compiling my excitement, which was also filled with hints of anxiety and fear. My community college days were finally coming to an end, and it felt bittersweet. 

I was worried that even though I spent so much time at community college preparing to transfer, I wasn’t academically ready to move on. Every time I glanced at my GPA, I doubted the likeliness of getting into schools that were at the top of my list. Nonetheless, I was eager to move on to the next chapter of my life, but for the moment, I would just have to wait patiently to see where life would take me.  

Once I got the OK from my adviser to submit my applications, I cautiously, yet quickly, pressed the “Submit” button with my eyes closed. With one click of my touchpad, my goal was already achieved, but in that moment I didn’t see it that way. Now that I am going into my senior year at UC Berkeley, I can say that transferring here turned out to be more dynamic than I thought it would be.

As a first-generation college student, I really didn’t have a clue as to what a university like UC Berkeley would be like. All I had for reference was what I had read online and seen in movies. The only expectation of UC Berkeley I had was that it was going to be academically rigorous on a completely different level than community college. During my first semester, I definitely struggled with meeting the higher writing standards and keeping up with the heavier reading schedules, but I managed. Throughout my first semester, I would find myself feeling filled with gratitude and amazement as I walked through campus and passed by the Campanile, Doe Memorial Library and Strawberry Creek. It felt like I needed to pinch myself and wake up from some dream, because it all felt so perfect. 

This summer when I went back home, I was asked by friends and family how my first year went, and I always replied by saying “Too fast, but so great.” Now that summer is coming to an end, and I’m about to head into my last year at UC Berkeley, I feel excited to be the first in my family to receive a bachelor’s degree. I look forward to reading in Morrison Library and swimming laps at the Hearst Gym pool. Unlike my first year, this year will have a little more direction in terms of my academic goals. 

During my first semester, I was focused on settling in and getting a feel for the campus and trying not to academically and socially overwhelm myself. As a result, I ended up not being an active part of campus, going to very few events and only hanging out with people I met during orientation. This summer, I set out to be more social and more than just a student who attends classes and goes to the library. So far, things are looking very different from last fall. I’m starting off the new semester by being a Golden Bear Orientation Leader, which makes me feel like a bigger part of the UC Berkeley community than I did before. I’ve met some really great people who want to welcome the new freshmen and transfer students as much as I do.

This is the year I’ve been waiting for: my definite last year of college. I want to take advantage of all the opportunities and resources we have here at UC Berkeley before I am no longer a student. Just the thought of not being a student is odd to me. Being a student has been such a large part of my identity since my first semester of community college. In some odd way, I think I’ll miss going to class and interacting with professors as well as my walks around campus. 

Even as a first-generation college student, I am privileged to have this opportunity to be here at UC Berkeley to study, learn and prepare for my future. I don’t think I’ll ever stop feeling grateful for my time here at UC Berkeley, and I’m beyond excited to dive into my last year of undergrad!

Mixty Espinoza writes the Friday column on her experience as a first-generation transfer student. Contact her at [email protected].