Today I’m grateful for the doors that have been flung wide open courtesy of attending the institution that is UC Berkeley. I am privileged to have had the opportunity to go to university but the ability to engage with such scholars on my own terms was such a blessing. I still remember my first day on campus and the electrifying current of excitement for potential friendships that coursed through my body. Interestingly, that is amongst the first questions I’m asked – “what were your initial impressions of Berkeley, especially as someone who was homeschooled?” And I can honestly say – absolute, contagious excitement. So much so that I immediately joined both the Rally Committee and the Student Orientation program as a counselor. I remember adding the entire class of 2013 as Facebook friends and commenting on classes we would share. I remember lunches with a new person every day and learning how to order food (I had never eaten out growing up). I remember hearing a popular reference and writing it down so I could spend an evening on Wikipedia educating myself so I could seem culturally literate (no TV either).
I learned to apply the unconventional learning theories of homeschooling to my university education as well. I remember my first C- and the courage it took to go and defend my thesis statement, eventually talking my professor into regrading my paper to an A-. I remember my seemingly random paper topics, often tying in the Sanskrit classics I grew up with by having intellectual discussions with professors that convinced them that it would make sense. I remember the despondence of dropping an Ethics class because I didn’t dare imagine a world without God in it. I remember crying on church steps in frustration after I had spent 35 hours at work that week and hadn’t gotten a chance to submit a paper on time. And the gift of studying abroad with advisors who let me choose such disparate places as Ireland and India so that I could find common ground.
Berkeley was more than an academic institution for me- it was a formative experience that forced me to grow in ways that I never dreamed and for that, I am grateful.