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Calling Berkeley home as a transfer student

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MARCH 03, 2023

To me, home is less of a location than it is a community where I feel loved, appreciated and accepted. 

Transferring from community college to UC Berkeley was scary to say the least. I thought I wouldn’t “fit in” with my peers and would stick out like a sore thumb. I spent nights falling asleep wondering how I would be able to successfully live on my own and be able to call Berkeley home. It wasn’t until I found meaningful relationships that I was able to make Berkeley my new home. 

Coming from community college, I was overwhelmed with the change in environment I was soon to undertake. Leaving behind small class sizes, my family and even my dogs was too scary to think about. How was I supposed to make friends as a junior transfer student, when everyone already had their established friend groups? I wondered if people looked down upon me, simply because I was a transfer student, and thought making new friends would be difficult because of this. However, I was quickly proven wrong. 

Prior to transferring to UC Berkeley, I was fortunate enough to come across an admitted transfer student Discord server and Instagram page. Here, I was able to start connecting with other transfer students. Our shared experiences, whether that be financial situations or the impact of the pandemic on our education, made me feel less alone as I prepared for this new life change. Even though I primarily talked to people by messaging them on social media, I had already felt like I was part of a community in Berkeley. 

Being able to connect in real life with these online friends I made meant a lot to me. Laughing and chatting with them in person made me realize that my experiences as a transfer student were not unique and I was not alone in my struggles. I was not the only one who experienced extreme impostor syndrome or thought I got admitted to UC Berkeley by mistake. I knew I wouldn’t be judged in the community I had built with other transfer students, as everyone was humble, empathetic and in the same boat. I finally started to believe that I belong here and that I could call Berkeley home. 

Meeting and forming relationships with other transfer students wasn’t the only thing that helped me adjust in Berkeley. Luckily, I was able to reconnect with friends from high school who had already attended UC Berkeley who could show me the ropes. Spending time with people from my hometown made me feel more comfortable and safe being in Berkeley. I appreciated the familiarity my hometown friends offered. From attending frat parties to studying in Moffitt Library, I’ve never felt like I was an outsider around them, despite being a transfer student, which contributed to an overall sense of belonging I feel at this university. In a sense, I felt like I was able to bring a piece of home here with me. 

Not only did my hometown friends teach me the ins and outs of the university and the city, but they also introduced me to their friends who welcomed me with open arms. Having these connections made finding new friends in Berkeley much easier and I have so much gratitude for my old and new friends I’ve made along the way. 

Lastly, getting involved on campus has made Berkeley truly feel like home. Being able to participate in the Berkeley community and learn about my school and city through these clubs makes me feel like I belong here and am not simply a visitor. After joining clubs, I’ve been able to find people with the same interests as me. These extracurricular activities allowed me to form a smaller tight knit community within the larger Berkeley one. I have been able to make new friends and share my excitement about my interests without the fear of being judged. I didn’t have to leave my interests back at home, but could bring them here with me where they could flourish in a new environment. 

Settling into Berkeley was no walk in the park. A range of emotions such as fear, excitement and sadness overcame me as I found myself learning how to live in a new city with new people. Despite my negative anticipation of being unable to find friends who enjoy and appreciate my presence, I was able to connect and befriend many people.

I will always love my hometown, but I am now confident in saying Berkeley is also my home.

Contact Sophie Ward at [email protected].

MARCH 03, 2023