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Apr 17 2017
by Joyce Cam

From Hero to Zero: My Freshman Year

By Joyce Cam - Apr 17 2017
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People like to say that college will be best years of your life, but what people fail to tell you is how much the first year can actually suck.


“Wow! You got into Berkeley? I’m not surprised,” was what my friends and teachers told me at the end of my senior year in high school. By this time, I had created a reputation for myself as someone who could do it all. I was associated student body president, a member of every club, had a job, played year round sports, did community service and never had a GPA lower than a 4.0. It was no surprise that I was the only one from my graduating class to attend UC Berkeley. 

Going to a school with the best of the best boosted my confidence and self-esteem tremendously. I was good enough to be classmates with the smartest kids around the world! I was ready to join so many clubs and meet so many new people. I knew the academics were going to be a lot more difficult and rigorous, but I believed that as time passed, I would get the hang of it and be pulling A’s and B’s. My first week at Berkeley was promising. My professors were extremely nice and I went to a variety of informational meetings for clubs I thought would be fun. I was excited to have bigger and better experiences than high school. However, what I failed to realize was that once I started at UC Berkeley, everything I was in high school would be nothing but a memory.


Let’s start with academics. Clearly, college classes are going to be 10 times more difficult than high school could ever be. With my core classes of English and math, I wanted to take a fun class and was recommended to take a music course. This music course showed me that no matter how hard you study, some things just do not stay in your brain. I was not used to having so much difficulty in any class, especially ones that I counted as electives. I actually ended up failing the class (special shoutout to the pass/no pass grading option that saved my GPA). The whole rollercoaster of the music class made my confidence in my academic abilities drop. This was the first class I had ever failed in my life and it was done during my first semester of college, the time when I should honestly be thriving and living it up.


Next, let’s talk about clubs. The main difference between high school clubs and college clubs is that, in college, you actually have to apply and interview to be accepted into some organizations. Initially, I thought that it would be a piece of cake. I am a relatively likable person, very dependable and welcoming to all people. All of this came crashing down when I got a call telling me that I was not accepted into the first club I had interest in. This definitely made me not want to go out and join anything else. Rejection hurts.


Lastly, the biggest part of anyone’s college career, the social scene. Let me tell you about my first frat party ever. One of my floormates brought me and my roommates to a party. It was gross, sweaty and everyone smelled like bad choices. It literally took me five minutes to get lost in the middle of the dance floor not knowing what to do. By the 10 minute mark, discomfort took over and my roommates and I left the party to go hide out in our dorm. The following week, my email flooded with reports from the police department about sexual harassment, robberies and other crimes committed in Berkeley. Coming from a very quaint, small town made these emails seem like the end of the world. The culture shock definitely got some getting used to, but until I was comfortable with the new environment, my dorm was where you could find me 99 percent of the time.


Academics. Clubs. Social Life. These are the things that make college better but more difficult than high school. It truly is a dramatic change that needs time to get used to. My first year of college is coming to a close and I can definitely say I am a whole new person. I am not the best anymore, but what can I expect from being surrounded by the best around the world? Through these realities, I have stopped comparing myself to others. College is not going to be like high school at all! You will literally be reinventing yourself for the next four years. Focus on yourself and do the best you can and do not waste time worrying about others because you have to do you!


Lead Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons


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Joyce Cam - University of California, Berkeley

Joyce attends the University of California, Berkeley. Follow her on twitter/instagram @Joyce_Cam !

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