What Berkeley Has Taught Me

February 24, 2022

Although my college experience is far from over, recently I’ve been reflecting on the lessons that I’ve learned from the school I’ve called home for the past 3 years. Looking back on my freshman year self, sometimes it’s hard to recognize the person smiling back at me in photos. Berkeley has shaped me into who I am today, and although at times I seemed impossible, each of the challenges I’ve overcome have taught me important lessons about myself, life, and the world around me.

Even though my journey at Berkeley started with an acceptance letter, I’ve been faced with more rejections than I can count. Extracurriculars, research positions, and jobs here can be competitive, and even if I felt as though one was perfect for me, sometimes I’ve been let down. I’ve learned to embrace the phrase “rejection is redirection” – I believe that things will work out exactly the way they’re supposed to, even if it’s not always what I want at the moment.

Admittedly, my study habits in high school weren’t the best. However, at Berkeley I quickly learned that nobody would hold me accountable for doing my schoolwork but myself. A few missed assignments and a failed midterm later, I’ve learned to use google calendar to my advantage, budget my time between work, school, and extracurriculars (and rest!), and how to adapt my study habits to a learning style that works for me.

north reading room in doe library during the day full of students

My favorite study spot on campus – the north reading room.

Adulting had a particularly difficult learning curve for me. I loathed cooking as a high schooler, but once I moved out of the dorms and away from the safety of the dining halls, it was up to me to put my own food on the table. Begrudgingly, I’ve slowly begun to hone a few key recipes to perfection – tacos, pan fried sweet potatoes, and pizza, to name a few! Additionally, living with others has taught me to become a more considerate and kind housemate. Say what you want about sharing spaces, but working together to keep our apartment clean and welcoming has been integral to learning to become an adult.

three meals bowls consisting of rice, chickpeas and cucumber as well as a side of berries placed on a wooden round table

Some of my first attempts at cooking in college!

a sandwich on a plate with a side of sliced nectarines, a folded paper towel on the and a glass of soda with ice

a homemade lunch!

dimly lit apartment living room with a couch and pattered rug and colorful wall art

My cozy little apartment

My last (and most important) lesson I’ve learned at Berkeley is one that seems a little obvious, but has been the most difficult for me – self-acceptance. Berkeley was the first place I officially came out to anyone except my best friend. Living my life authentically was one of my goals when coming to college – whether that means expressing myself with clothing and makeup, immersing myself in new hobbies out of curiosity, or stepping out of my comfort zone into a new experience (like being a campus ambassador!), Berkeley has been the place where I’ve become the version of myself that feels the most “me”.

As I tell visitors on my tours: Cal is a hard school, but it’s hard because it prepares its students for the real world – and sometimes that isn’t all fun and games. I can confidently say that once I graduate, I’ll be prepared for anything life throws at me – professionally, personally, or academically. It hasn’t been easy by any means, but being a Berkeley student has been the most rewarding and formative experience of my life. Go bears!

student wearing a grey sweatshirt in front of doe library

Emily in front of Doe Library

Author: Emily Conway

Hello! My name is Emily and I am a Molecular & Cell Biology student, graduating in Spring 2023. I love Berkeley and became a campus ambassador to share my passion to prospective students the same way that my tour guides did for me. In my free time, you can find me doing all things creative - from drawing and painting to embroidery, 3D modeling, and digital art!