I’ve only been at Berkeley for two months now, but they’ve been two of the most interesting and informative months of my entire life. Nantucket is a wonderful place and I’m incredibly thankful I grew up there, but it was time for me to get off the rock and see what the rest of the world had to offer. Berkeley is exactly what I needed.
Travelling 3,000 miles away to a city I’d only visited once before to live on my own for the first time was of course a terrifying and stressful experience. There were plenty of nights the first couple weeks where I’d lay in bed and think back to the spring of senior year and wish I could relive it all. That being said, I’ve finally settled in and I’m so happy I chose to come. The people are nice, the community is diverse, the weather is beautiful, and most importantly, the school is amazing. I can still remember the first day of my design class when the professor gave us a tour of the new maker space. I took one look at the wall of 3D printers, right next to the waterjet cutter and CNC router, and knew I was at home.
While tinkering the makespace is fun, I’m ultimately here to get a degree. I didn’t want to overload myself with work while I was still getting adjusted during my first semester, so I took the minimum number of units required for my major. This may come as a surprise, but I still have a ton of work. College isn’t necessarily more difficult than high school, there’s just so much more to do. Half of my time is spent reading Herodotus, Thucydides, and Virgil and the other designing mechanisms to be laser cut. This might seem like a living nightmare to some people, but if you know me, you know I absolutely love it.
If all I did was eat, study, and sleep, I would’ve gone insane within the first week. Luckily, I’ve made some great friends who have helped ease the relentless stress of college. On weekends, we’ll sail around the Bay, explore the city, and hike the fire trails behind our dorm. Not being from California, I constantly hear “Oh my gosh, you haven’t done X thing or been to Y place yet?” So for the next few months, and probably years, I won’t run out of new things to do. No longer will I list out all the possible things to do on a Friday night and realize I’ve already done all of them too many times. I love Nantucket, but we all know it’s a ghost town in the winter. I’ve also joined CalSTAR, Berkeley’s rocketry team which competes in NASA’s annual Student Launch and ERSA’s IREC competition. After only a few weeks, I’ve already designed and prototyped the actual avionics bay for the NASA SL. I can’t wait to see what the future of this club holds.
Most of the writing up until this point has been stream of consciousness (sorry if it’s incoherent). However, there is one important aspect I feel I need to address. In general, Berkeley is not in the news because of its world-class research or diverse community, but instead for “Alt-Right” or “Alt-Left” protests. Just the other day, Milo Yiannopoulos spoke in the main plaza, causing half the campus to be shut down. I heard helicopters circling for hours and could see snipers on the roof opposite my dorm. After events like this, I’ll check Twitter and read thousands of tweets calling for <insert insult here> of a school to be defunded ASAP. I have two things to say in response to comments like this. First, the majority of protestors are not Berkeley students. There may be a few scattered in here and there, but they not do reflect the educational community as a whole. The Berkeley administration does not encourage violent protests or suppress free speech. The protesters and the school are two separate entities. Second, I am all for freedom of speech. Regardless of belief, I feel that anyone should be able to speak their mind. I won’t necessarily agree with what they have to say, but I feel they have a right to share it. However, I take issue when that freedom of speech interferes with my education. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on security and shutting down parts of campus does not seem like an efficient use resources. That time and money could be better spent on improving Berkeley as a whole. At this point, it seems like a game for some to see how much chaos they can cause and how disruptive they can be. I think we as a community need to reflect on how to best express our ideas in a civil manner to avoid future conflict. It may sound difficult, especially in this politically supercharged era, but I believe it’s possible.
With that out of the way, I just want to thank everyone who has helped me get to where I am today. I know I’ve done this several times now, but it’s still hard to believe everything that’s happened to me in the past eighteen years. Though I love California, I’m still excited to come back home at Christmas and catch up with everyone. Hopefully everything will still be going well by then.
Thank you for reading,