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The University of California launched its Double the Pell campaign, which urges Congress and the Biden administration to double the Pell Grant by 2024.

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UC Berkeley. Berkeley. Cal. UCB. The University of California, Berkeley. Different ways of saying the same thing, yet it will always end up just being where you got your degree. Other than in an argument with a tree about whose alma mater is superior, for the most part, what color you wore for four years — or two years, in my case — will not matter.

I transferred to UC Berkeley from Cerritos College last year, but I didn’t really have an idea of what I could do with my English major. When choosing a major, English is often discussed as a bane of existence. One of my professors joked about this when she told us what one of her professors told her when she was an undergraduate. The story involved her visiting her professor during his office hours for a literature class, and she asked him what she could do with her English degree. The professor was quiet. He studied her and asked, “How good are you at balancing plates?” As a professor at Cerritos College, she was still distraught by her professor’s question and gathered resources to support her students. However, it wasn’t until the last semester before I transferred that those resources were made available.

I knew I could have talked with the various professors I regularly visited in office hours, but that’s not where my mind was. At Cerritos, my mind was in my classes and not in the after because graduation felt too far away.

When I arrived at UC Berkeley, it was evident that I was ill-prepared for what comes after, because graduation was no longer two years away but three semesters off. In my first semester, I enrolled in a class called “Berkeley Connect” because I needed to cross the 13-unit hurdle; I also heard it offered free food. The free food helped, but the actual class supplied many resources that I would not have known about had I not taken it.

The larger Berkeley Connect program offers different courses according to major, including both lower- and upper-division options. Each class provides mentoring and resource management, both of which guided my outlook.

The “real world” was apparent now. I knew I had to look more into what to do outside of class, which to my surprise was not that hard. There are various resources that provide assistance with finding professional internships and other activities to build a resume.

Through my search for the “what else” in terms of what comes after — which at this point changed from a romanticized ideal in the distant future to an immediate reality — I found that my writing game was not on par with that of my classmates as we compared grades.

Competition. This is when reality hit me. The competition was something I wasn’t used to, and it was humbling because this was where I found weaknesses to tend to. The competition was shown elsewhere in the subtle conversations between my own major and others. Sometimes it led to me seeing who did well on exams and essays despite studying the least, or who had more experience under their belt outside of class.

The atmosphere at UC Berkeley is what drives you into thinking of what is to be as opposed to what is or was. This is how the University of California, Berkeley prepares one for the “real” world. The “real” lies in the fact that you’re not always going to be the best. You may be the one taking food orders momentarily or the one whose test scores are less than perfect, or maybe you’re the one scoring higher than your peers, but at the end of the day, the “real” isn’t constant; it’s in transition. There will come a time when it will change, but after coming to UC Berkeley, I’m prepared.

Contact Daniel Orona at [email protected].