UC Berkeley Senior Reflection: Pearl X.

Graduating senior and triple major Pearl shares why she chose Berkeley, how she found a thriving arts community and what it was like the first time she stepped on campus as a freshman.

What is your major(s) and why did you choose it?

Pearl: I’m a Media Studies, Sociology, and Political Science triple major. I’ve always been interested in journalism so that’s how I ended up in the media studies major. As a Canadian coming to America, I felt like the political sphere was something really important to understand, because I felt like Americans in general are more involved with politics than Canadians are. So those were the two majors that I wanted to do coming in as a freshman. And since media studies is like an interdisciplinary major, a lot of the classes that we have to take are in history and sociology. So after taking a few sociology classes for media studies, I got really interested in the major.

What do you hope to do with your degree?

Pearl: I’ve a done a lot of marketing and public relations stuff so I’m definitely looking into the marketing field. Hopefully I’m going to use some of my academic as well as marketing experience.

What do you do outside of your academics?

Pearl: I started off as a volunteer for the Student Ambassadors For the Arts (SAFTA) under Cal Performances my freshman year. I found them at Caltopia — that’s where you find clubs and student organizations as a freshman. They really reeled me in cause they offer free tickets to all their volunteers, so I was like, that’s pretty worth it. It’s a lot of event planning and raising awareness about the performing arts. By my second year, I was promoted to the position of manager, and that’s what I’ve been doing since. At the same time I am also the public relations assistant with Cal Performances, which I started my senior year. Outside of that, I’ve also been part of the University of California at Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, or the UCBSO. I’ve been playing violin in the orchestra for four years now and I’m currently the concertmaster of the orchestra — and we’re going on tour to Spain in May!

What is the arts community at Berkeley like?

Pearl: Berkeley is known for the sciences. And I definitely feel like the side that gets more publicized is the sciences, with all our Nobel Laureates. But I feel like once you’re on the Berkeley campus, you realize how prominent the arts actually are. At noon every day you hear acapella groups singing by Sather Gate; every night you see dance groups rehearsing in front of Zellerbach Hall. These are the actual student activities that are right in your face while you’re on campus. Seeing those arts organizations on campus and how active they are on a daily basis really shows how active the arts are on this campus, even if it’s not as highly publicized.

How do you see the arts playing a role in your career and life after Berkeley?

Pearl: I want to do marketing — if I could tie that into an industry that’s related to the arts that would be optimal for me, like working at another performing arts presenter organization or working at a music department at a university. At the same time, I would love to continue playing the violin. Maybe finding a community orchestra to play in or starting a quartet, just to keep my fingers moving.

What was Berkeley like when you first got here as a freshman?

Pearl: I remember coming here for the first time as a Berkeley student, walking up towards the Campanile, and just thinking to myself, “Oh my god. This is such a beautiful campus,” and I thought, “I do not regret choosing Berkeley at all.” In general, I was really surprised by the activity of student groups on campus. Walking through Sproul Plaza as a freshman was overwhelming, but at the same time everything was so interesting to my fresh eyes. I wanted to be part of everything and get all the information.

What led you to choose Berkeley, and why would you recommend it?

Pearl: One of the most appealing things about Berkeley is its proximity to San Francisco. Sometimes when you’re off in a small town in the middle of nowhere, it’s harder to gain perspective on what’s going on outside of your campus because that’s what being a college town is known for: all academics and being a bubble. But having that access to SF is definitely a perk; the cultural events, protests, or whatever is going on there, we have immediate access to. In terms of Berkeley itself, I definitely feel like the academics here are challenging but in an engaging way. It’s challenging in the sense that it pushes you to think about things that you maybe have never thought about before. But it’s also engaging in the sense that you’re not thinking about it alone, whether it’s in discussion sections or lectures or even in a cafe.

The thing about Berkeley is we really carry our academics into our personal lives and try to integrate them as much as possible, but we also have fun when we want to. So I think it’s a relatively balanced school in terms of work and play. Definitely the most appealing thing is the freedom to engage in conversations about anything that you would like.

What will you miss about Berkeley?

Pearl: Definitely the intellectual rigor of being able to start a conversation with your friends about any random topic and go on for hours talking and philosophizing about it. I think that’s something that I’ll miss. And I’ll definitely miss all of the food options.

How do you think being a Berkeley student has prepared you for life after graduation?

Pearl: One of the most important things when you go out into the “real world” is knowing that there are all sorts of people out there with different thoughts and perspectives. Coming to a place as diverse as Berkeley has really helped me understand that kind of lens of seeing interactions with people — everybody’s ideas are worth engaging in, and your ideas are just as valid as anybody else’s. There’s always an open space for you to communicate those ideas. I think bringing that perspective into the workplace or anything else I want to do in the future is definitely something that Berkeley helped cultivate.

How does it feel to be graduating?

Pearl: I feel like I’ve learned so much. I’m definitely ready to graduate. I am done writing essays for a good chunk of my life. But at the same time I feel like I understand the world a lot better, and what kind of questions there are out there to grapple with and what challenges face society, whether they’re environmental or cultural or ethnic. I’m done with school and I’m ready to grapple with these big questions.

Interview conducted by Sarah Bellal