Everything I Learned Outside of the Classroom

May 11, 2021

In my four years at Berkeley, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about how organic molecules are formed, about the duality of particles acting as waves, and about how chemicals contribute so much to our world, both good and bad. I read thousands of pages of chemistry textbooks, some of which kept me up at night because they fascinated me, many that put me to bed because they were so dry and boring.

But as most soon-to-be college grads will likely agree, I know that I learned far more beyond the classroom. I learned to become a somewhat dysfunctional, sometimes functioning adult. I developed some vices I’m not so proud of (an addiction to caffeine) but also perfected the level and intake of caffeine that will give me the ideal amount of focus to get to work.

I learned to be extremely inquisitive and curious about the world. Berkeley gets an inaccurate rap of being a liberal bubble, but on the contrary I think it’s made me very open-minded to people of different beliefs. At Berkeley, we generally hope to have political beliefs and ideology that serve the greater good, but if something in our aligned political party isn’t serving the American population, then we’re not going to blindly support it. We are critical of our government and actively brainstorm alternative solutions in and out of the classroom. We show up to protest causes we are against, and show up in even greater numbers for the causes we support— take the Climate Strike in 2019 that gathered thousands of students that are behind oil divestment, progressive climate policy, and the Green New Deal.

One of my greatest takeaways of attending a huge undergraduate institution with a diverse student body is how to foster an inclusive environment. From little things, like the language we use to address other people so as not to assume their gender identity or sexuality. Or larger issues, like how to host an event or activity that is going to accommodate for people of all abilities. Or even thinking about the kind of people that are going to show up in a space, and if our organization reflects students of all backgrounds so as to make everyone feel welcome and invited. Learning how to cultivate a safe and positive environment is a skill that will be implemented far more than my knowledge of quantum mechanics ever will!

person standing in front of campanile smiling and wearing a graduation sash

Berkeley made me a lifelong learner, and I couldn’t be prouder to graduate!

At Cal, I learned to love my friends unconditionally, to break ties in toxic relationships, to keep my head up in a global pandemic, and how to write an original song (shout out to the Songwriting Club!). I learned how to build and maintain a good credit score, how to make a mean batch of homebrewed kombucha, and how to co-exist in a co-operative home of 36 people with their own quirks and habits. Most importantly, I have taken time to learn about myself and my passions, to discover what makes me feel alive and a productive member of society. While I am not exactly certain of what my plans are after I graduate UC Berkeley next week, I have learned to do what I love and have faith that good things will follow. Fiat lux and go bears!

Author: Katia Gibson

Hello! I'm Katia, a senior chemistry major and Cal Teach minor, and you'll either find me in the 24 hour library studying or out chasing sunsets on my long runs. I'm a Bay Area native and I also do work in the environmental community, research in an organic chemistry lab, and dance with Ballet Folklorico Reflejos de Mexico. Hoping that I can share a little bit of Berkeley's magic with you all, go bears!