The school decision that shapes my future.

I’m transferring next year, and the schools I could choose between are UC San Diego, UC Davis, UCLA, and UC Berkeley. The latter two posted their decision notifications later than the first two, which kept anxiety up. Upon getting accepted into both, UCLA and Berkeley became the finalists for my decision.

I will first talk about UCLA.

UCLA accepted me into their Global Studies major, which is highly impacted and tough to get into. The major itself focuses on globalization and its effect on the world community. A level six foreign language skill level is required, and I speak Mandarin and Taiwanese.

I’ve been to UCLA several times, including sleeping over multiple times. I’ve walked the entire campus and the surrounding neighborhoods both during the day and night. I must know at least 100 people who attend the school.

The school is in the heart of LA county. It’s in Southern California, where the weather is arguably the best in the world. I could visit the beach any time, yet have the mountains within driving distance. Moreover, the school is far enough from home that I wouldn’t have to ever come back. If the situation changes and I become homesick, a 1.5 hour drive will lead me to close friends, my family, and my house.

As if this offer wasn’t hard enough to decline, a good friend of mine has a free spot in his dorm and asked me if I wanted to live with him. Another friend I was introduced to informed me about the writing program at UCLA and how they were hiring tutors. To top it all off, there would be a high probability that I could continue dancing every Wednesday back in Whittier. UCLA is great.

Second of all, I will talk about Berkeley.

I will be majoring in Political Science with an emphasis on International Relations. Its undergraduate program consistently ranks 1-5 in the nation. It also requires knowing a second language.

I’ve been to Northern California three times in my life. Of those three visits, I’ve been to UC Berkeley twice – the first time when I was seven; the second time a week ago.

The Bay Area has completely different weather. It is much cooler, and the sun shines less days per year than SoCal. There is a rainy season in this Mediterranean climate from November to January.

Not only does it have different weather, the culture is completely different as well. Both the San Francisco and Berkeley population seems to be more of a community. The pedestrians are welcoming and courteous. The architecture and landscaping of the city is much different as well: the city is situated in hills and it looks like the downtown of a SoCal city.

The school itself looks similar to UCLA, but on hilly terrain. The buildings are built closer together, and there are a lot more trees. The biggest difference I found was that almost all the dorms and apartments are 1-6 blocks off campus.

In contrast to UCLA, I only know nine people total, which includes those who are transferring next Fall. Knowing few people there, although better than none, will be more of a challenge to expand my social base. With the exception of holidays, vacations or extreme circumstances, I will be staying in NorCal for the entire year. My closest friends and my family members will no longer see me often.

Which brings me to the final decision and explanation.

UCLA is such a great place for me to remain comfortable. Everything has been laid out for me already. Berkeley, on the other hand, erases and rebuilds me into a completely new person. Which one do I want more?

It’s now been a week since I submitted my SIR. Unmistakably, my final decision was Berkeley.

The biggest drawback of attending UCLA is that I am already accustomed to SoCal culture, especially that of LA and OC. I already have a generalized expectation of the type of people I’ll meet, albeit at a university, but the culture is still identical.

At Berkeley, I won’t be able to rely on anyone back home. It won’t be so easy coming home by hitching a ride for an hour or so. As a result, this self governance will help me grow and mature more as a person.

Once I left the premise of the school, UCLA merely became LA. The ambiance is loud and relatively discomforting. The school becomes lost amidst the skyscrapers, flashy lights, and the honking of the cars. Berkeley, on the other hand, had an entire culture surrounding the school. The city, as mentioned before, has a unique look of a downtown, suburban scene. Although the area is an urban setting, it felt rather quiet and relaxed.

I’ve extracted everything I’ve needed and wanted from SoCal and have been deprived of challenges for over a year now. It had actually been depressing my overall mood for this entire school year. Having expected to transfer a year ago, I switched my major and withstood another year in Fullerton. I am desperate for change.

Biases altered my perception of which school I wanted to attend. Before the acceptance letter arrived from Berkeley, I was dead set on going to UCLA. Each visit  had been tremendously rewarding, so there was no basis for comparison with any other school. Before regular trips to the school, Berkeley was undoubtedly my top choice.

I hate to admit it, but recognition and prestige also play an influence. Both are excellent schools, but Berkeley is better recognized internationally. Given my current career goals, it would certainly aid me to have a resume gleaming with Berkeley. Whereas UCLA is the #2 public school in the nation, Berkeley surpasses it as second to none. As a perfectionist (as exclaimed by numerous friends), I strive to be on the top.

There is also a general consensus that the Bay Area population is very liberal. During my two day visit, the aforementioned assumption seemed plausible, but not to the extreme that’s been portrayed. From my observations, the people are simply more open minded and tolerant to dissimilarity. They seem to also be aware of their surroundings, which brings them together as a community. As a native of OC and LA, I believe that the culture of SoCal is typically a localized one of superficiality and disregard for others

This why I chose Berkeley. Due to being situated into the unknown, I will definitely grow and mature twofold in comparison to remaining in LA. Its unfamiliarity and promise of challenge outweighs my love and comfort for LA. UCLA brings to the table the same [great] tasting good, while Berkeley puts on the table a dish from another planet. I’m more hungry for the latter.

With no regrets.

I cannot wait to be thrown into new territory. I cannot wait to fully experience the culture shock. I cannot wait to see the future me 2-3 years from now.

I cannot wait to go to Berkeley.

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