UC Berkeley alumni discuss academic sustainability at ‘Surviving Cal’ panel

Kristen Tamsil/Staff

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ASUC Senator Romario, who does not use a last name, hosted the “Surviving Cal” panel on academic sustainability from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, the first event in a series of queer and transgender wellness programming.

The event featured six recent UC Berkeley graduates as panelists who spoke to about 25 audience members. Topics covered at the panel included on-campus resources, time management and self-care tips.

“It really is a badge of honor at this campus in particular to really wear yourself out to the furthest that you can, which is sad to see,” said panelist Zaynab Abdulqadir-Morris.

UC Berkeley has some of the highest rates of depression among U.S. schools, according to the event page on Facebook. The panelists talked about challenges they experienced as undergraduates with social and academic pressure, overloading their schedules and not making sufficient time for themselves.

Abdulqadir-Morris spoke about the stress culture at UC Berkeley, describing it as one that awards students “clout points” for being tired. Panelist Valeria Suárez said on top of her course load, she was organizing on and off campus, working 20 hours per week in San Francisco and sleeping at about 3 a.m.

“Being an undergrad here sucks,” said panelist Marsalis Gibson.A lot of your challenges are just surviving these classes. Part of that is just having self-care, making sure that’s the priority and just setting boundaries.”

All of the panelists emphasized the importance of taking time for self-care. For each of them, self-care came in different forms, including journaling, cooking, working out, aromatherapy, sexual activities and taking time away from Berkeley.

Many of the panelists also faced financial difficulties during their time at UC Berkeley. Panelist Juniperangelica Cordova, a junior transfer, was homeless before she came to campus. She said the housing provided by the campus was the first time she had a home in six years.

According to Cordova, UC Berkeley functions in a way that “assumes” students have alternate housing during breaks, which she did not. She stressed the importance of utilizing the resources available on campus, including free housing for homeless students during winter break.

“What I wish I found out earlier about was just how much money the university has and how much money I should take for myself,” Cordova said.

Using campus resources to the fullest extent was encouraged, as well as not being ashamed of taking reduced course loads or staying for a fifth year.

According to Romario, the next event funded by the $12,250 wellness grant will be a sexual violence and sexual harassment conference, which will be co-hosted by ASUC Senator Nicole Anyanwu.

“I loved it,” Romario said. “I had one goal — that I wanted more than six people to come so that there were at least more people than the panelists — and that happened. I’m very thankful.”

Contact Taylor Rudman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @TaylorRudman.