As I write this column, I’m sitting in my room with my eyes glued to my laptop screen — a scenario that’s defined my life ever since I abruptly flew home from my study abroad program in March 2020. While working from the safety of my home is a privilege, constantly being in my room can also feel disheartening as it reminds me of an all-too-familiar occurrence — the pre-pandemic time I spent isolating myself to study in high school and college.
In 2017, my excitement over graduating from high school was tinged with regret. I thought getting accepted into a good college required devoting nearly all of my free time to studying, so I did just that. When I got to UC Berkeley, I vowed to be different. Assignments would no longer be the center of my world, I’d hang out with friends more often and I’d rekindle my hobbies.
While it’s not my fault that I’m ending college in isolation, as I spend my days doing exactly what I vowed not to, it’s all too easy to feel like I’ve failed in my original goal and overlook all of the ways in which I have, in fact, fulfilled the promise I made to myself at the beginning of college.
In freshman year, shutting my laptop and leaving my dorm room felt effortless. Energized by attending a new school, I was eager to explore. I skipped some readings, went to a game day when I should have been studying and was pleasantly surprised by the realization that balance actually helped my academic performance. Thank you to Sully, Mahima, Armine and all of my other freshman year floormates for always being down to adventure with me.
By spring, I was ready to join a campus organization. With a passion for videography that I’d always wanted to take more seriously, I applied for and was accepted into The Daily Californian’s multimedia department. My world felt like it blossomed as my video interview assignments introduced me to people and parts of campus that I would have never otherwise interacted with such as astronomy professor, Alex Filippenko or the computer science students taking classes in Soda Hall.
In sophomore year, leaving my room for study breaks felt harder. After a fall semester spent overloading myself with writing classes to prepare to double major in two humanities fields because, as the UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens Facebook page suggested, one was not rigorous enough, I decided to be brave and simply pursue what I loved — media studies. The joy I felt upon studying something I was passionate about outweighed any qualms I had about it being perceived as the “easy” major (which, by the way, is definitely a false perception).
This was also the year I moved into an apartment. Thank you, Katie, Renee, Olivia, Ashley and our honorary roommate, Audrey, for your words of encouragement during particularly tough weeks and for our regular 1 a.m. existential crisis chats.
My continued Daily Cal participation also helped lift my spirits during rough weeks. Thank you Luz and Adrianna for imparting your senior year wisdom amid our video projects to assure me that everything was going to work out. By the end of sophomore year, I had been accepted as a deputy multimedia editor for the upcoming fall semester and would lead the department alongside Sarah Harris and Sydney Fix. Sarah and Sydney, I will always be grateful for the endless laughs we shared as the fall 2019 multimedia editors. You two have given me the feeling of camaraderie I always hoped I would find in college.
In addition to handling my editor and class-related duties, I also spent fall 2019 preparing for my spring 2020 study abroad trip to Madrid, Spain. I signed a semester-long lease for a room in a communal house on Greek row with Daily Cal alumna Morgan, who was also studying abroad the following semester. Despite the construction noise and frat music that continuously disrupted my sleep, I look back fondly at that time. Thank you, Morgan, for your humor and kindness that made our anxious study abroad planning feel a little lighter.
Come January 2020, it was time to push my nervousness aside and move to a new country. I quickly realized I had nothing to worry about, as my host family welcomed me and I went from knowing no one to having a full group of friends. To Shweta, Emily, Tia, Sheila, Kyle, Tiffany, Beverly, Isabel, Daisy, Melissa, Tatyana, Espen, Harut and Brayden, I’ll never forget our weekend trips and nights out and will always be thankful for how close we got in such a short amount of time.
By March 2020, it was time to leave Spain and fly back home. Thank you to my mom and my family for your continual support — I love you and wouldn’t be graduating without you. Thank you to Morgan and Angela for being amazing roommates during this last semester. Thank you to the 2020-21 multimedia editors, Sanjana, Ananya and MJ, for making my time spent on Zoom brighter.
Although I’m sitting in my room, ending my time at UC Berkeley doing exactly what I vowed not to, I know that this practice does not define my college experience. I will be forever grateful for the past four years, and I think high school Jessica would be proud.