New students, new year at UC Berkeley — in photos

For freshman Mariana Soto Sanchez, her first week at UC Berkeley was worlds away from her life in Ontario, California.

student mariana soto-sanchez on a field smiling with more than a dozen other students

Mariana Soto Sanchez, a first-year student, is interested in pursuing a degree in psychology. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

“I’m from a big, tight-knit family,” she says. “We’re always doing everything together — there’s always family in our house. You never have any alone time.”

At 18, Soto Sanchez says being at Berkeley — one of 8,800 incoming students — is overwhelming and exciting, a risk she knew she had to take. She says she plans to study psychology, a subject that touches her on a personal level. “I’ve had so many amazing therapists and doctors, and I really want to give back to that.”

Soto Sanchez has transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder caused by severe inflammation of a section of the spinal cord. She came down with it suddenly as a sophomore in high school. It started as severe back pain and within an hour, she had lost the ability to use her arms and legs. Three years later, she has some mobility back, but she still uses a wheelchair most of the time.

Although leaving home and finding her way on campus has been a shock and challenge, she has found support with the Disabled Students’ Program, which will continue to provide her with resources to help her be successful on campus.

It’s a big change, she says, but worth it. And she hopes other students with disabilities are inspired to take chances like she has.

“My advice would be, ‘Don’t let anything stop you because there are always going to be obstacles.’ But if you don’t take the risk, you’re going to spend your whole life wondering what something is like,” she says.

[See photos from Golden Bear Orientation and meet more new students below.]

a portrait of student christian barajas smiling

After transferring to four different colleges, musician Christian Barajas, from Watsonville, California, has finally found his home at UC Berkeley. He’s been performing with the San Jose Opera since 2015 — which he loves — and is now on track to get his degree in music at Berkeley. “It was important to me to be surrounded by scholastic faculty, so even though Cal might not be the mecca for opera, I’m also interested in musicology. The research side of music is important to me. I could have gone to a music conservatory, but I think I’ll get the best of both worlds here.” (UC Berkeley photo by Keegan Houser)

student playing a game, lying on a pillow with a basket trying to catch balls

Freshman MJ de Vere (front) and Niharika Gupta play a game of “Hungry Hungry Human Hippos.” (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

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new student learns to play a banjo

Orientation leader Liliana Gutierrez Lopez, a sophomore, teaches freshman Patrick Pan how to play the ukulele. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Guiseppe Barbaccia, Hasan Abdul-Hadi and Dallas Sherrill smile for a photo

Freshmen (from left): Guiseppe Barbaccia, from Italy, Hasan Abdul Hadi, from Jordan, and Dallas Sherrill, from New York, met at Golden Bear Orientation. Sherrill, who intends to major in history or political science, says his love of debate and rhetoric has inspired him to pursue a career in law. “I just like being able to use logic to win arguments,” he says. “I try to play devil’s advocate whenever I can to encourage all sorts of conversations about anything.”

joseph greenwell takes a selfie with new students smiling

Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell takes a selfie with incoming students after the Bear Affair event at the California Memorial Stadium. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

Xiamara Peredia smiles and poses

Xiamara Peredia, a junior transfer student from Palomar College in San Diego, poses for a photo during Bear Affair. (UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)