When you’re preparing to go to college, you will hear the phrase “the best four years of your life” more times than you can count. But what happens when it’s not four years?
I began college as an eager 17-year-old in summer 2019. Only a month in, I learned that I could graduate in three years. “Class of 2022” had a nice ring to it — especially for someone whose lucky number is 22. The prospect of graduating early was honestly comedic as it seemed not at all likely and all so far away. And yet, here I am.
The irony of me graduating in three years is not lost on me. Everyone who knows me knows I am late to quite literally everything, and here I am actually being early to something.
Looking back, it is truly indescribable how much I have changed in this short period of time. I came here thinking I was going to major in political science and work in politics. I am now leaving having double majored in media studies — something I didn’t even know existed until halfway through fall 2019 — and history while actively pursuing a career in sports.
As great as it has been, I can’t help but feel like I was robbed. Sure, I have made some great memories and grown immensely as an individual, but I really have only had a little more than four semesters in UC Berkeley because of COVID-19. I left Berkeley during my freshman year still trying to figure things out and was thrown back in for my final year.
Just like this piece, my thoughts and feelings about my upcoming graduation are a jumbled mess.
Being a student at Berkeley has given me so much more than I could have ever imagined. All the hard times filled with stressful crying made the fun times with those I’ve come to love that much better. The breadth of knowledge I now have and the opportunities I have yet to come across because of this university sincerely leave me dumbfounded.
If you had told me four years ago I would be graduating from the No. 1 public university in the world with two degrees — and doing so a year early — I would’ve asked “What’s Berkeley?”
Unlike some of my peers who’ve dreamed of coming here, I had no idea this school even existed until my senior year of high school. The only prior knowledge I had about this place I now call home is that Troy Bolton came here. My decision to even apply was ill-informed because it was last-minute and impulsive.
Academically, I couldn’t be more ready to leave as I feel utterly burnt out. Emotionally, I don’t think I am ready to go. Is it simply me romanticizing this place in preparation for my leaving? Or could it just be that nobody is ever ready to leave?
As a first-generation college student, I couldn’t be more proud of myself. I have done it. After months upon months of battling impostor syndrome, here I am coming out the other end.
We all have our own paths in life. This is something I have had to remind myself of incessantly the last few weeks as I prepare to leave behind friends that I should be graduating with next year.
It is bittersweet stepping away from this place of comfort and into the unknown. To this day, I am not 100% sure if I am going to graduate school despite having been accepted nearly two months ago.
Regardless, it is with an extreme amount of pride (and fear?) that I say, at only 20 years old, I am about to have two bachelor’s degrees. If I do in fact decide to go to graduate school, I will be on track to have a master’s degree before I am 23.
Maybe I will decide to take a gap year or years and continue my education at a later point. Nevertheless, I know that this life is my own. The steps I take and when I take them will fit into my life, not when everyone thinks they should be happening.
A vast world of opportunity sits in front of me, waiting for me to take my next step. No matter where I end up, I will never forget my time spent here and those whom I spent it with.
To my family: I would never have made it this far without your continuous love and support.
To UC Berkeley: Thank you for pushing me to heights I never thought possible.
To Angelica: You have been my rock since we were 7 years old. I don’t know how to do life without you, but I know this isn’t goodbye.
To Hermanas Unidas: Thank you for giving me a home and community when I had none.
And finally, to The Daily Californian: Thank you for the countless opportunities you have given me. The work has been hard with too many long nights to count, but I am thankful for each and every day I had the opportunity to work here. Most of all, thank you for giving me some of the best people to ever come into my life — my found family.
With all the goodbyes, I have only one thing left to say to this beautiful paper: You can’t get rid of me that easily!
Amber Soto was the fall 2021 social media editor. She joined The Daily Californian in fall 2019 as a social media producer and was a deputy social media editor in spring 2021. She served as a social media producer, the sports social media manager, a baseball beat reporter and an editorial board member in spring 2022 and will continue covering Cal baseball through summer 2022. She is graduating with bachelor’s degrees in media studies and history.