UC Berkeley: self-motivating, thought-provoking and interactive

As one of the top five public universities in the US, the University of California, Berkeley is an institution that encourages students to think for themselves, writes blogger Perla Shaheen

September 20 2018
University of California, Berkeley

As a student at the University of California, Berkeley, I’m surrounded by some of the most open-minded, intellectual and friendly people on campus. Every person I have met is driven and passionate about what they do. They are willing to listen to new ideas and discuss them in an open conversation.

The heart of the school, Sproul Plaza, is a testament to this. Most days there are booths set up for counselling and environmental clubs, dance teams practising outside, a cappella groups singing in front of Sather Gate, and students biking or skateboarding to class. And on sunny days, everyone flocks to Memorial Glade, an empty field of grass in the middle of campus meant for ukuleles, competitive frisbee and Quidditch matches.

Aside from the beautiful, all-encompassing campus environment, a key characteristic of Berkeley’s students is that they are self-motivated. With so much to do outside and inside the classroom, you won’t get the most out of Berkeley unless you challenge yourself and experience new things.


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I’ve always wanted to be a journalist, but Berkeley doesn’t offer any journalism-related majors. Instead I jumped on any opportunity outside of school to write articles, report or produce video. As a result, I am now director of CalTV News, writer for the Berkeley Political Review, and I have a part-time job at UC Berkeley’s Broadcast Communications Office. My participation in these activities helped me find my niche at Berkeley, but it still took some time to land on political science for my major. I was a little outside my comfort zone, surrounded by students who were all pre-law, but I know I would never change my decision.

In both my political science and elective courses, lectures are thought-provoking and interactive. The professors want to hear your opinions, so it is necessary to do your homework and really think about what they’re saying. There are too many students putting the work in for you to slack behind.

From all this, you can already guess that Berkeley is not the place for those easily intimidated. I’ve learned that you can’t compare yourself to your peers who seem smarter than you – that will only lead to confusion and poor self-esteem. It’s essential to instead let them inspire you and in some situations follow their lead.

I’ve learned to ask for help in order to learn from the people around me. Instead of telling yourself you can’t do something, push yourself to learn – be thirsty for knowledge. For example computer science seems to be getting more important every day, and even though I’m a political science major I might just take a computer science course for fun.

This is the mindset I and others have developed from being here, and I think this will only push us further in the future.

Read more: best public universities in the US

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