University of California at Berkeley
BackgroundInterview Date:April 2019
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
First-Generation College Student: No
High School Experience: Private school in Orlando, FL with a graduating class of about 250 students. There was a culture of going to college.
Majors: Media Studies and Political Science double major
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in CalTV and I’m on the club figure skating team.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Ice skating has. I skate six times a week, so I’m at the ice rink a lot. I’d also say most of my friends have either come from CalTV or the figure skating team.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
I mainly have a lot of essays. My course load will go from me not having any homework to having an essay due. I don’t have many weekly homework assignments because I’m in the humanities, it’s just readings and then either smaller essays or big essays.
Is there anything you feel your either of your majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
Media Studies is really theory-based, so we don’t get a lot of hands-on practice. I get the hands-on experience through CalTV, but if you don’t do an outside club you don’t get hands-on experience. It’s a lot of classes on the history of media and the history of journalism, but we don’t learn how to write a good story as a journalist.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it is particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s a lot more collaborative, especially in media studies because I’ll typically have classes with people who I’ve had classes with before. You make friends in class because you see them over and over again. For example, there’s been a person in my class that I’ve had four classes with since I’ve been at Cal and we’ve become friends.
How accessible are the professors in your departments?
My professors in both majors are really accessible. They have office hours and they’re always open to reading your outline or thesis. That’s more so in Media Studies because in Political Science, while your professor does help you, you mainly talk to your graduate student instructor (GSI) for essay help and you go to the professor for help with understanding the material.
How helpful are your GSI’s?
I would definitely say they’re helpful. But, because many of them don’t attend class, they don’t know what is said and in lecture. It can be frustrating when you talk about something that was said in class in an essay, and the GSI who is grading your paper says they wouldn’t agree with that point, but you got that point from the professor.
Do you feel people are open to multiple schools of thought in the classroom?
No. Berkeley is a very liberal school and most of my Political Science professors have very liberal teachings, so when there is a conservative in the class they get a lot of pushback. I personally am very liberal but I still like to hear arguments on the other side, so I think it’s hard for the more moderate people to explain their ideas. I think the more moderate Republicans don’t really have the chance to speak because of the label they get.
What has been your favorite class you’ve taken for both of your majors?
For Political Science, it would have to be Political Science 1, Introduction to American Politics. I took it during FPF so it a really small class and it encouraged me to add it as a major.
For Media Studies, I really liked Introduction to Media Studies. I took that during FPF too. I think it’s smart to take the intro classes not during the typical fall or spring semesters because then they’ll be in a big lecture hall. It was really helpful for me to get to know the subject material through that.
What is the Fall Program for Freshmen (FPF)?
Freshmen have the opportunity to go straight onto campus or do their fall semester of freshman year at an off-campus site right next to one of the dorms. It’s off campus but not really off campus. The class sizes are much smaller. Coming from a small school, it was nice not immediately going into a 500-person lecture.
Why did you choose your majors? Are you happy with your choice?
I would definitely say I’m happy with my choice. I’ve always wanted to go into broadcast journalism. I knew I was always going to do Media Studies, that was my intended major when I applied. I added Political Science because the intro class is a prerequisite for Media Studies, and I’m also very interested in political campaigns and news broadcast journalism, so I thought Political Science would be a good background so I’m more informed about what’s going on the world.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on and around campus?
Freshman: Unit 2 Ehrman in a triple.
Sophomore: Off-campus apartment in downtown Berkeley in a two-bedroom apartment with two other people. I live in the living room and the other girls live in the bedrooms.
Are living situations where people live in the living room common?
Oh, absolutely. Berkeley’s definitely in a big housing crisis. Still living in the living room, I pay a lot for rent. I live in a nicer apartment which is what my mom wanted for me because of safety concerns. I have friends who don’t live in very good living situations because their house is falling apart and they’re always having to call people because they’re having problems with it.
How was transitioning from Orlando, FL to Berkeley, CA?
It was definitely a very big transition for me. The high school I went to was very conservative, so the political mindset here was great for me because I was the only Democrat in my AP Government class. Also, I had been going to school with the same people since elementary school, so I think it was a hard transition for me because I had been so comfortable. Then I come to Berkeley and I had never had to deal with homeless people, and there is a big homeless population here that I wasn’t used to. I also have never had to deal with safety concerns, like, I would never leave my laptop out and go to the bathroom while working in a Starbucks.
Can you describe the level of safety you have experienced on and around campus?
I haven’t had any concerns with safety and I’ve never felt like I was in an unsafe environment, but I think it’s because I’m really cautious. I don’t really go out late at night, or if I do, I Uber and am constantly checking my surroundings.
Pros and cons of being in Berkeley, CA?
1) Having San Francisco really close. It’s nice to go away for the day and get out of that college mindset.
2) There is always something to do in Berkeley. There are lots of art shows and street festival, so I never feel bored. I never feel like I’m here only to study. It’s a holistic experience of studying and having fun things to do.
1) The weather is a con to me. It’s windy and rainy.
2) Safety is a con.
3) The lack of housing that’s available for homeless people. It makes you feel more unsafe when you walk down the street and someone’s peeing or something.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
There’s always a live concert in downtown Berkeley, so I like to sit and get ice cream and decompress with some friends. We can always go to bars or clubs in San Francisco and frat parties. I don’t go out during the week. I try to go out at least one day a week on Friday or Saturday so that I know I’m still having fun and not getting too stressed out about school.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
I don’t really have an impression on Greek life. A lot of my friends are in Greek life so I hear about things that they have, like formal, but I don’t really understand it. It’s really what you make of it. I’ve definitely had some friends where Greek life is their entire life, but, for me, I’m able to show up to a party whenever I want or not show up. At Berkeley, we have the bid system where you need a wristband to get into an event. It can make it stressful because you’re just trying to have a good time but it doesn’t seem worth it to be putting in a lot of work to get a wristband to go to a party that you’re not going to love.
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
If I’m not going to a party, I’d go to a concert or go out to eat with friends. We’ll go to dinner and then go get dessert somewhere or walk around.
How happy are you with the social options at your school? Is there anything you would change?
I’m pretty happy with the options. The only complaint I have is that restaurants close kind of early and there is not much street life at night. Sometimes I’ll come back from a late-night activity I’ll be more concerned safety-wise or bummed out that there is no diner I can go eat at if I’m really hungry. Overall, I’m happy because there is a good mix of things to do.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Either from CalTV or my figure skating team. I also have a couple of friends that I still keep in touch with that I met through my dorm.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Cal Berkeley?
I would say that it’s pretty low compared to other schools. If you compare Berkeley to a big state school on a Friday or Saturday night it’d be completely different.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I haven’t seen a big mix because there are so many clubs in Berkeley that each of them have their own little group. In CalTV there are different races and sexualities, but in other clubs that doesn’t always exist.
How would you describe the Black community on campus? How strong is it?
I would say it’s strong now. Before I came to Cal, we didn’t even have our own space, but now we have the Fannie Lou Hamer [Black Resource Center]. I think that’s made me more connected to the community because I know if I walk into that space it’s going to be filled with students who are experiencing similar struggles to me. It’s also just a very small percentage of us here. [About 3% of the undergraduate population is Black.]
How would you describe the student body?
Because we’re very close to Silicon Valley, Berkeley is super competitive. I’m in the humanities so I don’t experience it as much as some of my other friends, but I think Berkeley takes pride in being a competitive every man or woman for themselves kind of place.
Can you describe a time where you’ve felt that competitive environment?
We have to take general education courses, so I took a biological science class to fulfill a requirement and I wasn’t doing the best in it because I hadn’t taken biology since the tenth grade. The class was filled with a lot of STEM people and I tried to ask people for notes or help with a concept but they didn’t want to help me because we are going to be asked a clicker question about it later. The professors fuel the competitiveness because they’ll introduce a concept in class and then ask a clicker question about it later on and if you don’t get the question right you don’t get credit for attending the class. It’s also all graded on a curve, so [you have to beat the mean to get a good grade].
To what extent do people in Greek life and not in Greek life mix socially?
For me, I think I’ve been lucky to find friends in Greek life while not being in Greek life because I really value those friends and if I didn’t know them my experience at Cal would be different. But, when I’m hanging out with them, pretty much all of their friends except for me are in Greek life. It’s a little weird because they will talk about Greek life things or people who they know in Greek life, and am always shocked how many people they know because the Greek life community is so interconnected.
How has the size of your school influenced your social experience? [There are about 31,000 undergraduate students.]
At first, I wasn’t a big fan of it. Even now, I think there are some classes where I would have learned so much more if the class size was smaller, so I do wish that class sizes were smaller. But, I think the population at Berkeley is fine for me because I meet a lot of new people who have very different personalities.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
They can. I just think you have to be proactive in reaching out to them and really make an impression on them. It’s not a situation where they’ll try to help you. Even if you reach out to them, you have to be constantly reaching out to them.
To what extent have you used the career office? How helpful were they?
I’ve used it for looking over my resume and cover letter when applying to internships. I think they’re pretty valuable for getting another set of eyes on them, but I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’re the end all be all. They’ll give me suggestions and sometimes I’ll take it and sometimes I won’t. I think I’d use them if I trusted them more.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
I have not. I think it would be cool to have that skill set, but I don’t think I have the time or energy to learn it.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Cal Berkeley before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I had talked to a student who already attended Berkeley because I went in thinking it was going to be a lot more diverse than it actually is. [About 25% of students are White, and 26% are Chinese, Korean, or Japanese.]
What is something a prospective Black student may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
The community here is really small. You’re going to really go out of your way and try to find other Black students. That was something I wasn’t expecting at all, I thought it was going to be a lot bigger than it actually is. [About 3% of the undergraduate population is Black.]
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The hikes. We have a lot of nature around Berkeley a little bit off campus and I think it is really helpful to destress. I went on a hike with my parents when I visited and I thought it was really cool. There are a lot of cool sites to see, so I would definitely recommend going on a nature hike around Berkeley.
Reasons to attend Cal Berkeley:
1) The people you’re going to meet.
2) It’s a really cool place to be for four years in terms of location.
3) Academically, you’re going to learn a lot. There are so many professors who have done cool things.
Reasons to not attend Cal Berkeley:
1) Academic elitism runs rampant here.
2) There is a culture of STEM over humanities, so if you’re a humanities major you’ll have to deal with people thinking your major’s worthless.
3) It’s really big. If you have a professor you think is really cool, you won’t make a connection with them in class. You have to go to office hours to make a connection with them.