Reflecting on Change During my First Year at Berkeley

One important thing I’ve learned this year is to be open to change. All kinds of it. I think it’s fair to say being adaptable to change is crucial, given the rapid growth of the pandemic. But over the past year (can’t believe I’ve almost completed a year of college!), I’ve faced a lot of personal changes.

In June 2019, I began my college career at Berkeley, only 2.5 months later, I packed up and began my first study abroad experience in London. At the beginning of 2020, I started my second semester back at Berkeley, eager to get to know Cal again, and abruptly picked up to come back home 2.5 months later. I’ve learned about how I learn in different locations and remotely too, and amidst such rapid physical change, I’ve learned how to slow it down by simply existing in my current environment. Not rushing my mind forward or pushing it backward – just sitting still and appreciating my surroundings.

Just chilling (Agrigento, Italy)

I’ve also seen changes in how I view my academics at Berkeley. Finishing the AP Calculus test in high school, I hoped I would never have to take math again. It’s something I can easily get frustrated over, and I built up a behavior of just doing the bare minimum to get through the class. But signing up as a Business Major and seeing Math as a prerequisite, I knew I’d have to face that challenge again.

This time around (taking Math 16A), I was determined to establish better study and learning habits. Though I could skip to 16B, I enrolled in 16A, because I knew I hadn’t built a solid foundation of knowledge to jump to the second semester. I enrolled in an adjunct through the Student Learning Center (SLC) even though it jam-packed my schedule, and made an effort to seek help from my teacher and tutors. I’m proud to say I am doing really well in math, and dare I say, somewhat enjoy it. I don’t think I’m now an intended Math major, but I am much more confident in my math skills, and two years ago in high school, that’s something that would’ve been hard to believe.

Now at home, I’ve tried to implement more positive change in how I spend my time outside of class. In high school, I ran cross-country for a couple seasons. I ran because I liked being a part of the team, but I didn’t really like the running itself. I only liked the final few strides, and I hated the hills.

A chalk quote I run by every day that says “We are in this together!”

I’ve been trying to change my attitude towards running during quarantine, pushing myself to run a couple miles almost every day. Some days are slow and hard, but other days I improve my time and feel good the whole way through. I love who I am after I’ve accomplished a run, and I’ve realized I need to power through the parts of running that I dislike in order to reach that end goal.

In training myself to bear the hard parts, they become less and less difficult each time. This change I’m trying out has been both physically and mentally challenging, requiring a lot of motivation. It’s not one that springs itself upon me, like how I lived in so many different places this past year. But it’s still a good one.

I think what I’m trying to say is, I’ve surprised myself this past year. A year ago, I wouldn’t have expected this change or envisioned how I would grow in these ways. Nevertheless, a year ago, I was excited and hopeful for college, because it was something I was really itching for and something that pushed me through my final months of high school when senioritus drudged on.

Around the time I started my first year of college, I saved a quote I saw on Instagram. It said, “remember that you once dreamed of being where you are now.” Through the changes I experienced this past year, this mantra kept me positive and grateful for the opportunities I was given to grow.

If I could step a year ago into the past and talk to myself, I would say, “remain optimistic, and be ready to change. What you will experience is what you’ve been dreaming of. But that dream is the kind of dream that is fantastic and thrilling in the moment, yet something you just can’t articulate once you wake up. It’s the kind of dream that leaves you with that feeling of zeal and happiness, because something awesome has just occurred. So, I’ll see you soon. And keep dreaming.”

By Sara Cheung

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