The New Kid on Campus: Returning from Study Abroad
At the beginning of this semester, I was both excited and nervous to return to Berkeley after spending my first semester abroad. As a part of the Haas Global Management Program, I was required to spend my first semester in London with my cohort. While adjusting to a new culture was difficult at first, I soon began to thrive and fell in love with the city and my life there. I began to worry about my return to the Berkeley campus. There would be thousands more students, classes would be a lot harder, and I had missed many of the typical freshman experiences my new peers had gone through together.
When I arrived on campus, I found myself frustrated with the way I started. Many people had friend groups already established. I found it hard to grasp that the life-long, genuine friendships I wanted so badly would take time and a lot of effort to form. In addition, there were so many clubs to join and people to meet that I felt overwhelmed. It was easier for me to remain in my comfort zone, going to my classes and keeping to myself, while moping and lamenting that my first semester back was not how I imagined it to be. However, this made me even more miserable, and I realized I had to make a change.
The first thing I did was go outside. Meaning, instead of just going to my classes, my dorm, and the library, I made a conscientious effort to walk through the busiest areas of campus and see what was happening. During the first 2-3 weeks many campus organizations “table” on Sproul Plaza to spread awareness about their mission and recruit new members. This time can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’re an introvert like me, but I feel that it is a necessary step in putting yourself out there. Dedicate at least 30 minutes to 1 hour to talking to club members, and take every flyer. You never know what might become a new passion of yours – don’t close yourself off just because something is unfamiliar. For example, a friend of mine randomly joined a fencing club and now has a blast practicing every week and competing in regional tournaments.
Next, make sure to put yourself out there! Although it can be awkward at first, get used to introducing yourself to people you see in your classes. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with a person sitting next to you before class. Ask someone to grab lunch or a snack with you after class, and watch a stranger turn into a friend. As someone who is naturally shy, this was most difficult for me to do, but the more you practice the better you will get and the more natural and exciting it will feel to meet new people. In addition, if you are putting yourself out there and not finding a connection with a person right away, do not be discouraged! Not every person you meet will be a lifelong friend, and putting that much pressure will make it a lot more difficult to form organic relationships. As much as you might want someone to like you, remember that you should be determining if you like them as well.
One of the biggest difficulties about starting at Berkeley again after studying abroad is getting used to the course load. Try to take the minimum amount of units you can while also staying on track with your major requirements. This will allow you to get readjusted to a Berkeley course level while also giving you time to get established in clubs and also focus time on building relationships with your new peers. If you are facing difficulties in any of your classes, there are a plethora of resources available to Berkeley students for support, though often you may not know where to look. Take advantage of tutoring services offered through the Student Learning Center, residence halls, and student organizations. Berkeley can be tough, but by doing your research and advocating for yourself you put yourself in the best position to succeed.
All in all, please remember not to rush yourself in the process of getting re-established in a “new” place. Have the same patience you had when exploring ways to make your study abroad location feel more like home, and soon enough the same thing will happen for your return to Berkeley.