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Where I am Now…

September, 2011

About two weeks ago, I found myself in a puzzler of a situation. I was going to college. “What?” you say. “That isn’t a puzzler. You just go, right?” Wrong.

The entirety of my high school career was completed in Shanghai, at Yew Chung International School. It was a great experience for me: I learned a new language, met a lot of really interesting people, and was able to travel around Asia as well. Until two weeks ago, I would go so far as to say that moving to China was the best thing that ever happened to me. But now I’m at UC Berkeley, and arriving on campus may have just snatched the top spot.

Let me continue with a disclaimer. Shanghai provided me with a wealth of experiences that I never could have dreamed possible. I think I will always believe that Shanghai is the greatest city in the world because it will always, first and foremost, be my home. I love Shanghai, and I loved living in China, but now I am moving on to the next chapter of my life, and I couldn’t be happier!

I have to tell you, adjusting to campus life and moving countries (yet again) was not an easy thing to do. It’s only the second week of classes here at Cal, but I already feel like I have learned so much. And there are a few things about UC Berkeley that made this learning so special.

First of all, Berkeley has more school spirit than any other school I have ever visited or heard of. Think High School Musical on steroids, and you might get an idea of how much the students love their school and are grateful to come here. Everywhere I go, I am in a sea of gold and blue—to not wear Cal gear is almost unthinkable. This is bear territory, and we are out to prove it.

As part of this spirit, there is a club called the Rally Committee; the oldest and largest student group on campus, the UC RallyComm is dedicated to encouraging and exciting the student body about everything from sports to community service. They are a tightly knit group of students who put on every event imaginable, including the largest bonfire west of the Mississippi to prepare for our “Big Game” against Stanford University. 

The RallyComm is a representation of UC Berkeley: we wear Blue and Gold striped rugby shirts that embody our love of all-things Cal. These shirts have become a symbol of Cal spirit—to wear one is both an honor and a responsibility.

What else? Community. Despite the campus population being a whopping 35,000 students, everyone at Cal is connected by an underlying sense of belonging. Everyone here has an amazing and unique story to tell—in that we are similar. On campus you can find the most eclectic group of people you could ever imagine; because everyone is so different, it never gets boring.

I think that us freshmen feel this community the most. For most of us, it is the first time being away from our families. For some of us, it is the first time doing laundry. And for all of us, it is the first time we have been in a place that had so many people with so many different passions.

I have heard so many people say that Cal is the best place to be for an undecided major, and I have to say that I agree. Cal has about 1,500 registered student groups, with focuses ranging from Academia to Religion to Sport. Within these groups, students can find even closer-knit communities and groups. In this way, every student can find their niche at Cal.

The best thing is how many different passions there are here. Asking people what their majors are, I get excited for everyone else and the journeys that they are taking! In my group of friends alone, we have an industrial engineer, a political scientist, a peace and conflict studies major, two pre-med students, a pre-business student, a few people who are undecided, and an all-American lacrosse athlete. We have met so many diverse and dynamic people, everyone with a unique interest and plan for the rest of their lives.

Another thing that I have found at university is that everyone who is here wants to be here. There is an enthusiasm for academics here that I have never before encountered. YCIS provided my high school class with the resources and opportunities to succeed at university, and everyone did extremely well in school. But everyone at Cal wants to learn as much as humanly possible; they come to class every day eager and bright-eyed to find out as much as they can about the subject matter. That makes me even more excited to learn!

The idea of academic innovation is also hugely present on campus. I think that the main reason for this is because it’s a research university. Students and faculty both love the idea of pushing academic boundaries, researching and assisting to discover new ideas and concepts. This seems to be a sort of philosophy at Cal—if it hasn’t been done, do it. Nothing is impossible; you can achieve anything if you try. Californium and Berkelium weren’t discovered by sitting around!

This, of course, is carried through the pushing of political and social boundaries as well. Berkeley is well known as the center of the free speech movement in the United States, as well as a center for equality and human rights. Cal is the number one school for sending volunteers to the Peace Corps, and for this reason is known as the “hippie school” of the west coast.

Because of this, Berkeley teaches tolerance. As an international student, this is what makes me the most excited about going to school here. At Cal, it’s never a bad thing to be different. It’s never bad to be exactly who you are and nothing more.

I love Shanghai, and I always will. But Berkeley was obviously where I was meant to go to university. I’m lucky to have found a place that fits me so perfectly, and a place that I can really call home for the next four years.


By Gabriella Rader


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