UC Berkeley Student Orientation by Caitlin Dong

UC Berkeley Student Orientation by Caitlin Dong

Just as high school freshmen attend orientation, so do college freshmen. I attended freshman orientation for UC Berkeley in the middle of June. Everyone abbreviated and referred to orientation as CalSO (Cal Student Orientation). I just learned the other week that UC Berkeley is also known as “Cal” because it was the first established UC. Probably something I should know before I go there, huh? At orientation (at least for Cal), you stay over night in the dorms with a roommate, eat the dorm food, get a tour of the campus, attend mini lecture sessions where faculty help you determine which classes you need to take, etc.

My mom decided that she wanted to participate in the parent orientation that ran at the same time as the student one (but separately, of course). We both agreed that we should pay the additional $30/each to take advantage of the early arrival accommodations. No way in heck was I getting up at 5:30 in the morning to get to Berkeley on time with no stress for the first day of orientation.

It wasn’t long before I realized that everyone is from different places, near and far. With at least 250 future students in one dorm building, I met a lot of people from SoCal (and from NorCal, as well). Others came from Washington, Texas, and there were many international students, coming from Indonesia and China, to name a couple. There is such a diverse group of students, coming from all walks of life – all to the same place: Berkeley, California.

I’ve always shared a room with my sister, but sharing with a complete stranger is a whole different story. At CalSO, though, I ended up rooming with my friend from Tracy High, as we arrived together. We did decide to be social later on in the day and made efforts to meet our floor mates. I honestly think that getting to know the girls on our floor was one of the highlights of orientation. Before the craziness of the next day, we were able to relax and just hang out.

Despite what horrible rumors you hear about dorm food and the fact that I’m a picky eater, I think I’ll be able to survive this coming school year. Breakfast on the first day proved to be assuring. They seemed to prepare food to appeal to many different eaters, including vegetarians, vegans, and picky eaters in general. Oh, and the unlimited frozen yogurt didn’t hurt to form my opinion either.

After breakfast, though, it was time for a completely filled day of becoming better acquainted with the campus and the people. We were split into groups based on similar majors and assigned to a counselor (who is a current student at the university). I was so tired by the end of the first day of orientation (which only lasted until about 9:45 p.m.) that all I wanted to do was go back to my dorm room, take a shower in the dorm shower (with my trusty shower shoes on, of course), and go to sleep (I totally blew off the optional late night activities that the orientation organizers had planned). Of course, nothing really goes as planned, right? As it turns out, I spent time with my floor mates and other friends, finally going to sleep around two in the morning. Not exactly the smartest decision, considering I had to get up four and a half hours later.

The second day of orientation consisted of signing up for classes, taking a tour of the campus, and receiving our student ID cards (and taking our picture for it…a picture that will be stuck with me for the next four years. Great). On the plus side, with my ID card, I have access to free bus services, get student discounts at certain stores, and other such things.

* Some of the most important things I learned while at orientation are as follows:

1) You have a great deal of freedom when choosing what classes you would like to take. Personally, I was/am overwhelmed by the number of courses in such varying subjects that are available. It’s not like high school where you are required to take the all too familiar math, science, english, language, and history courses, and where you can choose, like, one elective. In college, you take about four classes and then some other fun courses, such as karate. They even have a course that helps you strategize in how to study. Yeah. A lot of freedom.

2) There is free tutoring in the Student Learning Center. Heck. Yes.

3) They offer a service called “Bear Walk.” At nighttime (I can’t remember the specific hours), you can call this service, and someone will walk with you to wherever you need to go (well, within a certain mile radius, of course).

4) The homeless people may seem nice, but they WILL steal your things.

5) It’s important to get involved – I think college is really the place to expand your interests, meet people, and have fun while maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

As some personal words of advice, definitely apply for scholarships in your senior year of high school. Even though they may seem like a major pain in the butt, you can’t receive any if you don’t try. They will, without a doubt, help alleviate some of the burden of college expenses.

I met a lot of people while at orientation, so that will be somewhat reassuring when I actually begin school in the fall. The energy and vibe at orientation were exciting, which makes me all that more pumped for Cal in a couple of months! To me, Berkeley definitely reminds me of San Francisco, eclectic and so different from good ole Tracy, and I think the transition from suburbia into an urban city will be quite an experience.


Drive Safe!  Never Forget.


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