Written by Tiffany Qi
When the semester ended, I had talked with a couple of freshmen who were anxious and disappointed of how their first semester at Cal turned out. Some didn’t get the grades they wanted. Some decided to switch majors halfway through. Some didn’t find where they belonged.
When I completed my first semester, I pretty much embodied all of these problems. I didn’t meet what I thought would be a “core” group of friends. I thought getting anything below a 4.0 was a terrible GPA (that high school mentality showing). I didn’t really like business or linguistics. I stayed in my dorm a lot, my floor wasn’t social, I didn’t get along with my roommate, and didn’t enjoy my extracurriculars of that semester. I didn’t like what I was doing, didn’t have direction, and didn’t feel like I belonged.
Slowly, semester after semester, my time at Cal improved. I’m not saying that every one of those items got better. In fact, my overall GPA lowered every semester since I got here. I also didn’t really find a core group of friends, or a particular environment in which I felt I belonged in.
But the one thing that changed such negativity into optimism was getting involved and taking action.
Berkeley extracurriculars are surprisingly difficult to join. Most (if not all) require some sort of application and interview process, and the more popular ones are nearly impossible to join (100+ applications for anywhere from 3-20 spots). This kind of popularity even forbids the unconfident freshman (like I was) from even trying to attempt any of these clubs. Perhaps this was one of the reasons I didn’t find my core group: I didn’t even try.
I’ve applied to a bunch of popular clubs in the past, to no avail. While there’s the popular saying: “If you can’t beat them, join them”, there’s also something else: “If you can’t join them, go elsewhere”. Which is a bit like what I did. This is how I’ve come to lead and essentially start two different student organizations and another project that all have become a part of me. This is what made me happy: not grades or a specific community of friends. But doing something impactful. And being everywhere. I found direction.
Everyone is different, and doing something that defines who you are is a start if you’ve felt any of these feelings I mentioned above. Over time, I’ve discovered that I embody a sort of “start-up” mentality: I enjoy starting things from the ground by setting a foundation for others to build upon. I love structure, so I make the structure. I don’t belong in one particular place: I find comfort being part of a lot of different environments; and that’s what makes me whole.
Of course, these realizations did not happen over an end of one semester; it took four and a half. Yes, there are still parts that I don’t like and want to improve. Semester after semester, there’s always a pile of accomplishments and failures: failures being my ideal choice of emphasis.
You will always have those failures. I know I will never stop having failures. However, I won’t let those failures prevent me from continuing to do what I love and shape this campus for the better. I will continue to take action!
Worry about your grades, but don’t let it be a metric of how successful you were in a given semester.
Worry about how to make yourself better, but not to anyone else’s mold or standard.
Worry about doing the things you care about, and find a way to do them.
Get involved, take a risk, find your own direction. Keep at it and don’t give up! I wish you a semester full of positivity and inspiration.