As we swiftly enter week seven of the 2021-22 school year, it might be just another week like any other for upperclassmen. However, from a first year student’s perspective, it’s the seventh week of their entire college career. As a first year myself who’s still very much learning how to make UC Berkeley their home, I admit I had plenty of expectations before setting foot on campus. Perhaps it’s the normal anticipation every first year encounters as a result of the unrealistic portrayals in film and TV that lead to worldly experiences. From Rory Gilmore’s Yale days in “Gilmore Girls” to Elle Woods’ experience as a law student in “Legally Blonde,” it’s no surprise why many of us fall into the traps of the glitz and glamour of college living. For most, it’s the first time away from home which is typically a result of newly found independence and freedom. What is there not to be excited about? I myself was expecting late-night runs for ice cream and weekend fun. What was received in return was a whole lot of homesickness and an insurmountable pile of assignments to complete.
Ah, communal living. Dormitories are either the most dreaded aspect of college living for some or an exciting adventure for others. There is no in between. Dorms serve as a home away from home for the school year until the struggle to find off-campus housing for the following year arises. Until then, students are encouraged to make the most of their time in the dorms. Make friends, study, rest and more. As a result of unrealistic TV series and films, it’s no surprise why I anticipated endless fun. Rather, there are awkward elevator conversations and deafening silence while brushing your teeth with a person right beside you. Regardless of the building — the Units, Blackwell, Stern or Foothill — it can be rough accommodating yourself to a new space, especially if you’re not used to sharing a space with other people. Finding a groove in an unfamiliar place can be arduous, but it’s important to recognize that you aren’t alone in the fight of making a place for yourself in a city like Berkeley.
Speaking of dorms, like many of us, I expected to connect with peers instantly. Just a snap of the finger and I’d have my new college besties. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic and conflicting schedules, I found myself feeling tired with the countless repetition of asking about majors, hometowns, likes and dislikes. Having to make a good first impression with potential friends while juggling tiresome conversations feels like walking on eggshells — trying to be yourself while reading the vibe the other person gives off. As I said, it’s the seventh week and I’m still in the fight of making long-lasting friendships with those around me. But it’s possible that I’m feeding into the same fabrications and expectations that are rotating throughout the media. The reality is that friendships will form when they’re supposed to. Patience is a virtue, as they say.
With the hustle and bustle of UC Berkeley’s nature it could be easy to fall into the rhythm of constantly fretting about anything and everything except our own emotions. Being in tune with oneself is crucial for well-being yet we often neglect it due to busy schedules and other priorities. Perhaps it’s because I’ve always pined for a city life coming from a rural, agricultural town that I expected to feel liberated coming to college. However, the reality of it is that I’m not as comfortable here as I thought I would be by now. Students here in Berkeley come from all across the globe which provides some solidarity in the lingering emotions of sadness or discomfort in an unknown city.
Whether you’re a first year who’s absolutely flourishing in this new climate or like me, who is still finding their bearings, I leave you with the affirmation that you are doing fine. Setting absurd expectations for yourself and the future more often than not leads to undesirable outcomes. With that said, be easy on yourself and focus on your own garden.