Being a freshman in Haas’s Global Management Program means many things. I get to take classes at Berkeley the summer before my freshman year. I get to study in London in my first fall semester of college. I get to know our cohort of 28 people like family. These are all the things I expected about the program. What I didn’t expect was to have to adjust rapidly to one unfamiliar city and then the next. I ended up feeling like a lost freshman… twice.
Taking summer classes at Berkeley this year, I thought I was lucky getting to conquer any initial freshman year awkwardness a semester early. Being from New Jersey, I was truly on my own in a way that my in-state friends weren’t, so making campus my new home became a priority. I was happy when Cal began to feel familiar, and I no longer needed Google Maps just to get to Haas. I began to feel like a pro at making friends, braving daily meals at Cafe 3, living with communal bathrooms—a pro at college.
But familiarity was quickly stripped from me when I came to London barely two months later. I’d just started ordering smoothies at Golden Bear Cafe without having to look up at the menu first, and now I’d been thrown into this new world, where I still hadn’t made a home.
London certainly isn’t all fun and games the way I imagined it would be. We live in apartments and are responsible for cooking for ourselves. Having never touched a stove in my life, I definitely burned a few pots before I could confidently cook ravioli. The fear of missing out becomes pretty real watching other Berkeley students on social media have a “normal” first semester of college. Studying for classes and exploring as much of Europe as humanly possible is a fine balance that can easily become elusive.
But while at Cal I craved familiarity and fitting in, here I’ve learned to treasure the unfamiliarity—there’s always something new to be discovered. Even having been here a month, I still find new places and streets just on my daily commute to our study center. It’s fun to just take the tube (London’s BART system, but dramatically better) to a random, unfamiliar station and see what awaits when you get off! I’ve explored local festivals, the Millenium Bridge that was featured in the Harry Potter movies, and even a Heinz beans museum. The city is bustling with life.
I’ve been in London for six weeks now and there’s truly no other place I’d rather be for my first fall semester of college. In fact, being an awkward freshman in a new country is the perfect combination because literally nothing fails to excite me—from the freedom of going on late-night food runs to student discounts. They even accept US school IDs here! And ultimately, being a lost freshman twice means I learn double of everything. I’ve learned how to tolerate Cafe 3 and make a mean ravioli in my own apartment. I’ve learned to take AC Transit to Oakland and RyanAir to Amsterdam. I’ve learned to be a Berkeley student and then, just a few short months later, I’ve learned to be a London student. It’s the best of both worlds.