Student Alaisha Fernando wants to find her community

a person stands outside smiling at someone out of the frame

Alaisha Fernando is a first-year student majoring in political economy. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

This Q&A is part of a series of new student profiles for our 2022 back-to-school coverage. Have someone you think we should write about? Contact

What year are you, and where are you from?

I’m a first-year student. I’m Sri Lankan, but I’ve lived my whole life in Dubai, a city in the United Arab Emirates.

What do you plan on studying, and why did you decide to attend UC Berkeley?

I’m majoring in political economy. I chose Berkeley because of its really strong data science program. I’ve never done anything in the computing field other than use Google and YouTube, and I feel like Berkeley is a great place to introduce myself to technology and data science for careers in the future.

What has it been like for you so far, coming from Dubai to Berkeley?

It has been a bit of a culture shock. Dubai is quite safe and small, and Berkeley is a big community. It has only been a few days, so I’m still trying to find my small community within this huge community. But everyone has been very welcoming and nice.

Do you and your family visit Sri Lanka?

Yeah, we go back every Christmas. All four of my grandparents are there. I’m very lucky and blessed to have all four of my grandparents with me to this day. I just spend all my time with them. My grandmothers make really good food, and I come back a little heavier.

What’s your favorite Sri Lankan food?

It’s called hot butter cuttlefish. It’s deep-fried and put in this chili butter sauce.

What are you most looking forward to during your time at Berkeley?

I’m looking forward to some independence. I come from a strict Asian household. I went to an international, mainly British school, so there was a cultural clash between me and my peers with our values. My parents are very Christian, at heart, so they wouldn’t — understandably — let me go out much. I’m also looking forward to meeting people who I have a lot in common with. I would love to meet other Sri Lankans at Berkeley.