For those first-year Regents’ Scholars having a hard time adjusting or needing a few tips on how to survive life at Cal (because we all know we need some help sometimes), the Professional Development committee has interviewed a third year Cal student, Alex Villanueva, and asked him for some tips on how he survived his first year. Alex is currently doubling in Media Studies and Rhetoric and has devoted his time at Cal to the Undergraduate Communications Association, Hall Association, Resident Hall Assembly, the Berkeley Project, Cal Pal, KALX, and internships in the Bay Area. So here’s Alex’s 10-step guide to surviving your first year at Cal:

  1. Co-Ed Restroom: “I didn’t want anyone to think I was being a pervert, so that was important to me. So I tried to be as conscientious of other people’s privacy. I wanted people to feel comfortable, not like I was a threat, so I always tried going in as quick as possible. Tunnel vision basically. It was whatever though. Typically, when I would shower or anything, no one else was in there. Just be conscious of who you are next to, so mind your own business, some people react differently. Only talk to someone if they talk to you first because if you’re too friendly and you’re both half naked, it could be weird.”
  2. Get to Know Berkeley: “Know where all of your classes are, know where the Tang Center is, know where the most inexpensive grocery stores are so you can get affordable utilities and supplies. Just know your environment so you’re not always lost, trying to find out where everything is all the time.”
  3. Be Prepared: “Do your best to be prepared for class. Like having your school supplies, knowing the rules and regulations, knowing how the syllabus works so you know when your quizzes are and when your homework is due. Just as simple as always having a pen and a piece of paper for class.”
  4. Explore: “Explore the area and explore your options and resources. So you’re here at Berkeley and there’s so many things to explore that cater to your professional aspirations and clubs that cater to your hobbies or even just Cal Adventures that lets you explore options you never had. You’re only here for so long and it goes by so fast. Here, everything is pretty much free as a student and there’s things you can do that you probably won’t be able to when you’re like 25 and its too expensive or not realistic.”
  5. Peer Pressure: “If it’s something that truly isn’t you, don’t do it. You’re meeting a lot of people here at Cal and they all like doing different things, and don’t think that just because they’re cool that you can just skip out on class and do other things. If you really trust yourself, go for it, but its important to not just do things to do it. Have a reason and don’t get distracted.”
  6. Don’t Depend on Anyone: “The minute you put the faith of something important to you in someone else’s hands, they won’t treat it in the full extent or full compassion that you put in it. It could be anything, especially homework. If you need notes or homework, people won’t care as much as you. You can’t just hand them the torch and expect them to hold onto it. Sometimes you just have to do things yourself.”
  7. Reach Out: “I did go to office hours my first semester, but I definitely should have gone more. Reach out to your professors, GSI’s, counselors, or anyone. They will remember you for being that guy who was passionate or determined to succeed. It will give you an edge. If they like you, they’ll look at you more subjectively. Plus it helps if you need letters of recommendation or just need some advice on your career or major options.”
  8. NEVER Forget your Room Key or Cal ID: “There was this one time my roommate lost his keys and they had to change the locks, but he didn’t tell me so I was coming out of the shower half naked and I was locked out of my room and I needed to get to class. So, I had to run across the street, get my key (in the rain), and still rush in time to get to class. I made it on time, I don’t know how, but the lesson I learned was to always ALWAYS hold on to your key and Cal ID, especially if you had a roommate like mine.”
  9. Free Time: “When you have free time, don’t use it as free time. Free time is catch up time. You can relax, don’t get me wrong, but when you have that weird moment where you have all of this extra time, start doing stuff you know you have to do in the future because you’re going to look back and think ‘Wow, I could’ve gotten this done so much earlier’. Free time is a luxury, use it wisely.”
  10. Don’t Over Indulge: “For a lot of people, it’s a new environment and there’s no parents on your ass. So when you go to the cafeteria, you’re going to drink soda, eat a lot of pizza, then go to Bear Market and buy candy and more soda, so you need to know your limits! At first, it’s a lot to handle, but you have to be cognizant of what’s in front of you. Start practicing healthy habits. The Freshman 15 can be very real and you want to be ready for that. Start now and get the advice you need to start living a healthy lifestyle.”
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