More than 5,000 freshmen headed to UC Berkeley for the start of classes next week are about to embark on common rites of passage — buying textbooks, finalizing class schedules and meeting new roommates. But despite taking these same steps toward university life, no one student arrived at UC Berkeley from the same path.
Three incoming students provide a glimpse of the diversity and excellence of UC Berkeley’s newest freshmen.
A freshman at 15
Freshman Ritankar Das is getting settled into his new campus accommodations after moving from his home in Fremont. But his housemates won’t be strangers — they’ll be his parents. After all, he’s only 15.
After being accepted to UC Berkeley, Das, who is among two dozen whiz kids under 17 who will be freshmen this fall, and his parents had to decide if he should commute from Fremont or move into a campus residence hall. They settled on a compromise: He and his parents would relocate to UC Berkeley’s University Village, which offers family housing in nearby Albany.
Throughout his K-12 education, Das said, he never felt academically challenged. When he brought this up to his teachers, they suggested he move up a year. With some hesitation, his parents supported the change, and Das continued on an accelerated course throughout high school at Mission San Jose.
Das’ parents will have to commute from Albany to their jobs in Santa Clara, but Das said he is thankful they’ll make the sacrifice. Living in UC Berkeley housing with his parents will ease his transition to college life, and allow him to participate in campus activities that he would not have had access to. He can’t wait for classes to begin.
“Cal is my dream school,” said Das, who plans to major in chemical engineering. He said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join one of the top-ranked chemical engineering programs in the world.
A New Yorker in Berkeley
While Das is among the more than 5,000 California freshmen entering UC Berkeley this fall, New Yorker Adam Gotlin is among 620 out-of-state freshmen. Another prospective engineering major, Gotlin was attracted to UC Berkeley’s reputation for rigorous academics and public service.
“The expectations at Cal are that you’re here to learn and develop and possibly change the world,” he said.
Gotlin considered applying to Ivy League schools such as Cornell University. But after visiting the UC Berkeley campus, he fell in love. Although he knows the advantages of attending a school closer to home, he felt that only UC Berkeley fit his personality.
Gotlin is looking forward to a change of pace from the hustle and bustle of his New York lifestyle. “I like the feeling of coming to campus and being able to walk to class and not see any cars,” Gotlin said.
A long way from home
Arriving from even further east — China, by way of Australia — is Liu Liu. She applied to UC Berkeley at the urging of her father, who spent time as an engineering research scholar at UC Berkeley three years ago. He loved both the campus and the city of Berkeley and encouraged his daughter to apply, she said.
Liu spent her senior year of high school studying in Australia, but for college she wanted an adventure in a completely new country. She arrived in California about a week ago and is looking forward to meeting people.
She said the biggest benefit she will bring to the campus community is her cultural diversity. She hopes to be able to share her experiences and what she has learned from her time spent outside of the United States with other students.
Liu is particularly excited about attending a Cal football game. She’s never experienced American football, and wants to see how it differs from the Australian “footy.”
More than anything, she’s looking forward to the freedom of being away from home. “I only have four years here, and I want to make every day count.”