I was lucky enough to attend in-person classes my first year at UC Berkeley, before the pandemic forced everyone to return home for the remainder of the school year. When news got around that COVID-19 would be sending us home indefinitely, I packed up my belongings in preparation for a two-week extended break, not knowing that that fateful March 13 would be the last real day of my freshman year.
My first year of college was a great one, to say the least. I was enthralled with all the experiences it brought, such as visiting the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time and going to Yogurt Park on late nights after spending the afternoon studying at Moffitt Library. During my freshman experience on campus, novel social gatherings were my main focus. Although it was fun to be surrounded by brand-new people and things, it distracted me from the real reason why I chose to attend UC Berkeley in the first place: the academics.
After I was sent home and stripped of the distractions I had previously spent so much time consumed by, I was forced to reckon with what my first year at UC Berkeley had left me with. All I had to show for my time on campus was a few nice photos of the Campanile and a not-so-impressive GPA.
Attending classes from home left me no option but to figure out what it takes to succeed academically. Once I started devoting more time to developing relationships with professors and GSIs and engaging with the learning material I was given, I was able to find more success and reassure myself that I deserved to be here.
I began attending virtual office hours and speaking up in lecture. All the little things I had thought didn’t matter suddenly became the most important factors in determining my academic success.
UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ recently announced that the plan is to resume in-person instruction this fall. This means that after more than a year’s hiatus, we’ll have to figure out how to navigate real classes again instead of worrying about whether we have the right Zoom URL for our morning lecture.
When we return to campus, I intend to make the most of every class I take, regardless of how many times I have to read Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations.” I’ll look forward to the little things, such as the walk from Dwinelle to Doe after a long day of class. I’ll never again take for granted a long line at Yali’s or a crowd on Sproul. I may even go as far as to say I am excited to have the professional fraternities aggressively pressure me into taking one of their flyers. The sound of the Campanile’s bells signaling that class is over — a sound I’ve definitely forgotten by now — will soon become the most joyous noise, reminding me of a time before the beginning of the pandemic when I used to dread the start of a lecture and impatiently wait until the end of the day when my classes would finally be over.
Online school taught me that without all the distractions of pre-pandemic life, at its core, a college education is about taking advantage of all the resources we’re given. Without college parties and bars and restaurants, all we have left is our academics and our passions.
Succeeding at this school takes so much more than just showing up to class. A good grade means something, but what means even more is recognizing the importance of putting your utmost effort into academics. When school (hopefully) returns this fall, I’ll be starting in-person classes with a newfound attitude of appreciation for everything from the importance of academic success to the way the sun hits the Campanile in the afternoon.