Going to UC Berkeley (Cal, for short) for college was a dream come true. I grew up two hours away from the campus so it didn’t seem like a big deal, but when I got accepted it meant the world to me.
The school itself is rich in diversity of all kinds. I had friends whose parents were laborers and I had other friends whose parents were ambassadors from other countries. This eclectic group of students gave rise to an eclectic way of thinking that is easily seen in every classroom I was in at Cal. Everyone came from such different backgrounds that learning occurred academically as well as holistically. I was able to learn from so many other students’ perspectives and lives that a “world class education” literally meant that I was getting education from the world.
Berkeley is known for its freedom and I definitely got my fair share of that. When I was an undergraduate the school was attempting to renovate the football stadium and in the process they had to remove some trees that were there for a very long time. Some Berkeley natives were not too thrilled with that and so protested by living in the trees around the main part of campus. They lived there for months on end and just so you know those trees were hundreds of feet tall. They ate food up there and one day I asked them if they come down to poop and then the guy responded by pointing to a tin bucket attached to a long rope that he said he empties every day. So, that kind of grossed me out and I never really came that close to the trees again. Haha 🙂
My professors were AMAZING. I was taught by some Nobel Laureates, Fields Medalists, Fulbright Scholars, and MacArthur Fellows. All my professors were up to date on the latest of all research and always taught us the latest sciences. Most importantly, however, they taught amazingly well. They were able to explain complex jargon to a really deep level and were able to answer any question thrown at them. One aspect I loved most of their teachings (that I continually try my best to emulate) is that they taught their students how to think creatively and the professors did their best to call the students to action on the aspects that mattered most to us. My test questions at Cal were NEVER straight forward. They were ALWAYS deep and intricate. A simple regurgitation of the entire textbook would give you a B- at best. You have to understand the concept and apply it to a completely new scenario, which causes you to think, understand, and execute. Having been taught this way rigorously for four years, I now teach all of my students this Berkeley tradition.
Honestly, though, I think about 15% of my professors just wanted to do research and were only teaching as a part of their obligation. These were the professors that when class ended they packed their things up and ran out the door before the hoards of students crowded them to ask questions.
Another con of the school is that class lectures were huge among popular courses. I took an astronomy course with Professor Alex Filippenko (a world leading expert in astronomy) and I believe there were 800 students in our lecture hall. This meant that if you wanted to ask a question during lecture you had to go to a microphone and ask the question. For me and many other students this was too daunting and I often refrained from asking questions during lecture, but waited for his office hours before I asked something. HIS CLASS WAS AMAZING BY THE WAY. Professor Filippenko is ridiculously smart and above all he is the most caring and positive Professor around. Thank you for teaching me everything! If you read this that is.. 🙂
Those 15% of my Professors who just wanted to do research and the huge class sizes are the only “bad” things about the university I can think of. Everyone there is ridiculously smart and it pushes you to think as well as absorb views to expand your own mental horizons.
The dorm life, greek life, sports life, FOOD life, and everything else about the university and city is amazing. Whenever I visit Northern California I always make it a point to stop by UC Berkeley and if anyone has any questions relating to the University or anything else feel free to ask (I was a biochemistry major). I’m always here to help.
BTW, three of my friends from my class have gone on to be Forbes 30 under 30, a plethora of them have gotten into medical schools, and one of them is leading the way in online education. Me 🙂
Love you guys!