An Interview On
University of California at Berkeley

Background

Interview Date:December 2018

Gender Identity: Female
Race/Ethnicity: Asian
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2021
First Generation College Student: No
High School Experience: Public high school in the East Bay Area, CA and there were about 625 people in my graduating class. There was a culture of going to college.
Major: Molecular and Environmental Biology and I’m on the pre-med track
Minor: Undeclared
Extracurricular Activities: I volunteer at UCSF and the Highland Hospital, and I’m part of a Pre-Med Professional Fraternity.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
The professional fraternity. That’s where I got my volunteer position at a lab. There was a fellow member who told us about the opportunity.

Academic Experience

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
I have a lab every week depending on if I’m taking a chemistry or biology course. If you double up on these, that means you have two labs per week, which are about 3 to 4-hours long. The STEM classes are early in the morning, starting at 8 or 9 AM. The lab classes are a separate letter grade than the actual course, and the grades are the final exams and reports you submit every week.

Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
We have different colleges at Berkeley with different majors. I’m in the College of Natural Resources which is smaller, giving us more access to our advisors.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it is particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s a little bit of both. It can be competitive in the classroom, but in organizations like the fraternity, it becomes more collaborative. You are competing against people who are as motivated or as smart as you. Because of how big the student body is, they grade each class on a bell curve so you have to try and get above the 75th percentile.

How accessible are your professors in your department?
They hold office hours once or twice a week. Your ability to meet with them depends on how your classes align, along with if you have time in your schedule. Outside of these office hours, they are not that accessible.

Why did you choose that major? Are you happy with your choice?
Yes, I don’t think my major mattered that much to me because I’m trying to go to medical school. The College of Natural Resources drew me to it specifically because of my interests. You also get the smaller school aspect, so there are more resources and attention provided.

Does your pre-med fraternity host any events?
We hold a bunch of events that are either open or closed to the public. We have the Anatomy Fashion Show where student models have specific organs or systems within the body drawn on them and showcase it. We raise money for a children’s hospital by selling tickets. We also have doctor luncheons where we have doctors come in and talk about their life and how they got where they are.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on and around campus? 
Freshman: The Unit 2 Complex with 2 other roommates. There are junior transfers dispersed within the freshman unit and was on a co-ed floor.

Sophomore: Off-campus

How do you like going to school near your hometown?
It’s nice to not have to fly a couple of hours to go home. I can just drive and have that emergency support from my parents if I need. A lot of kids from my high school attend Berkeley, so seeing familiar faces on a huge campus is pretty cool.

Can you describe the level of safety you have experienced on and around campus?
There is definitely a lot of homeless people out on the streets outside of campus, or teenagers from different towns. We get alerts on our phone anytime there is a police report around campus. Recently a car stopped and snatched someone’s phone. I try to walk home with somebody or when it’s not too dark.

What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
My top place would have to be Ausha Tea House.

Pros and cons of being in Berkeley, CA?
Pros:
1) Being close to both Silicon Valley and San Francisco.
2) The food is great, but on the more expensive side.

Cons:
1) Safety. You wouldn’t want to leave a laptop out at a Starbucks. [There are 57 property crimes per 1,000 residents in Berkeley, CA, more than double the California average.]

Social Opportunities

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I definitely like exploring the Bay Area. There are so many diverse cultures to explore. A weekend excursion could be going taking the BART [train system] San Francisco or Oakland. There are a lot of restaurants to go to and places to see. I love going to see the museums. Or, I just hang out with friends because I try not to spend too much money.

Does your pre-med fraternity host any events?
We hold a bunch of events that are either open or closed to the public. We have the Anatomy Fashion Show where student models have specific organs or systems within the body drawn on them and showcase it. We raise money for a children’s hospital by selling tickets. We also have doctor luncheons where we have doctors come in and talk about their life and how they got where they are.

How happy were you with the social options at your school? Is there anything you would change?
I wish I had my car because things would be a lot more accessible and I wouldn’t have to pay for Uber or BART, but everything is relatively close compared to other places in California. Berkeley students have a bus card, which is free for the students. It’ll take you around campus or to somewhere such as Oakland.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
I roomed with a friend from high school, but my other friends I met through classes and the pre-med fraternity.

How would you describe the overall social scene at Cal Berkeley?
It depends on what you get involved in. The social fraternities and sororities will have date nights and other events. The pre-professional fraternities will also have mixers which allow you to meet people outside of your field. There are things for everybody. Clubs will have events that pertain to whatever they’re doing too. Just because it’s a huge campus and there are so many people, you’ll fit in somewhere and find something to contribute to.

How would you describe the student body?
I don’t think there is a typical stereotype because it’s there are so many diverse people. I’d say there is a mixture of everything, which is nice because you fit in just the way that you are. Some people are very career-oriented, and people enjoy the outdoors. People are comfortable about who they are and what they believe.

How has the size of your school influenced your social experience? [There are about 31,000 undergraduate students.]
It’s a huge school and housing prices are pretty expensive. The size has allowed me more freedom because there are so many of us and nobody is watching over my shoulder. You have to be a go-getter and apply yourself. You have to present yourself and hope for the best when you apply to research positions and job internships because there are a lot of other people applying as well, but the more you apply the more you’ll be chosen for something.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Everyone gets along fairly well, and there is no discrimination. It’s a very open campus, so people are accepting of what you believe and who you are. [About 25% of students are White, and 26% are Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.]

Careers

Have you reached out to the alumni network or the career office?
Not really because my pre-professional fraternity has helped me with all of that.

Have you learned any computer programs or languages that will be helpful to you professionally?
I haven’t yet. I took an introduction to statistics class last semester but I do plan on taking a Data 8 and Computer Science 88 because they focus on basic computing but more so through application of the real world. I haven’t taken either, but everybody recommends taking those two classes if you’re not going to be doing that as a major.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Cal Berkeley before you entered as a freshman?
I knew coming in it was going to be hard but doable if you put in the effort. I wish I knew I could go to office hours and ask professors questions.

What is something a prospective pre-med student may want to know?
There is a bell-curve, and medical schools know Berkeley is a hard school. You also have to reach out to people when going for positions and opportunities because there is a lot of competition.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Try going to the libraries. There are 10 or 15 libraries on campus to check out and see if you think you’d be able to study in them.

Reasons to attend Cal Berkeley:
1) It’s in the Bay Area, so you are close to a lot of opportunities such as research or internships.
2) There are lots of clubs on campus so you’ll find what you want or didn’t expect to find but will love.
3) It’s great having the autonomy, which prepares you for life after college.

Reasons to not attend Cal Berkeley:
1) It’s pretty big, so getting personal attention from professors is hard. [There are about 31,000 undergraduate students.]
2) The Bay Area is kind of expensive in terms of housing and food.

Notice: University of California at Berkeley is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by University of California at Berkeley.

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