As the academic year nears the finish line, I’ve found myself experiencing a strange combination of excitement and nervousness — excitement for the endless wonders and freedom of summer and nervousness about returning to school next year in person, especially as an upperclassman. With my freshman year cut short due to the pandemic, I barely feel like I know enough about campus to qualify as a real junior. Though I’m apprehensive about the return to in-person classes, imagine how much more intense this feeling must be for my fellow Bears in the grade below, who began their college journey online. This guide is for you, class of 2024. While you’ve been here for a year, here are some things you should know about a regular year at UC Berkeley.
In-person office hours can be awkward
Zoom office hours have been the biggest blessing in this otherwise trying year. While talking one-on-one with your professor can always be a daunting experience, something about doing it virtually takes some of the stress out of it. During a regular year, you may have to trek across campus to an obscure location and actually sit across from your professor in — yes, you guessed it — their physical office. Once you get over the initial awkwardness, however, face-to-face office hours can be very rewarding. They are a great chance for you to build a relationship with your professors and get their advice on anything from course concepts to your academic career. So don’t be afraid! Go to office hours.
You won’t be hearing your classmates’ every thought during lecture
One of the simultaneous blessings and curses of online school is the infamous Zoom chat. While you can get questions answered quickly and more comfortably participate in class, it can sometimes get overwhelming to see 200 of your classmates post their every thought in the chat. If that stresses you out, the good news is that there’s no such feature for in-person classes. People either share their thoughts out loud or not at all. And when they do share, it feels more personal as there is a face to their name.
Making it in time to back-to-back classes is a full-body workout
I didn’t have to think twice when I scheduled three back-to-back classes this semester. Stacking my classes allowed me to get all of my schoolwork done earlier in the day and gave me lots of free time in the evenings. Although this strategy worked great during online school, it isn’t as feasible during a regular school year. Make sure you check how far your classes are from each other before you schedule them back-to-back. If you think walking from Li Ka Shing Center to Pimentel Hall in 10 minutes sounds manageable, think again.
You can’t walk down Sproul Plaza without getting bombarded with flyers
Sproul Plaza is where many campus clubs and organizations table during recruiting season or to advertise events. It’s a great place to approach a club you’re excited about to learn more, or simply to meet new people. However, if you’re just trying to get to class in peace, odds are you still won’t be able to make it to the other side without at least five flyers in your hands.
You could make lifelong friends in your classes
Online school has its benefits, but at the end of the day, there is nothing quite like being present in a room full of your classmates. I’ve made some of my closest friends just by sitting next to a stranger on the first day of lecture or asking my discussion group if they wanted to get ice cream after section. Chances are you will, too.
I hope I’ve demystified some aspects of what an in-person year looks like, class of 2024. It can be nerve-wracking to enter campus after starting off your college experience virtually, but I promise you that you’ll come out at the end of it with some of the best memories of your life. Go Bears!