Golden Bear Orientation (GBO) is right around the corner. What is GBO? On this week’s Not So Secret Guide to Being an Engineer podcast we invited Micki Estuesta from New Student Services to give us an overview of what to expect, who you will be working with and why we think GBO is one of the best ways to start your time, not only at UC Berkeley, but as a Berkeley Engineer.
GBO is a mandatory, weeklong program (August 15-21) for new undergraduates that helps you:
- make connections to your peers, faculty, and staff
- learn more about available resources and experience campus traditions
- broaden your understanding of this diverse and dynamic community
- create a sense of community with your orientation group and trained Golden Bear Orientation Leaders
LAURA VOGT: Welcome to The Not So Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer. I’m Laura Vogt the Communications and Events Manager for Engineering Student Services. And thank you for joining this week for our podcast once again. And it’s coming, you’re finally going to go on campus and you’re getting to meet new folks and start your college career. So today I’m excited to have Micki Estuesta, the associate director of New Student Services to give us some backstage information on Golden Bear Orientation. Thank you for joining us!
MICKI ESTUESTA: Well thank you all for having me. It’s wonderful to spend some time talking with you all and sharing more about the whole experience the Golden Bear Experience.
LV: So what can you tell us a little bit more about you and what you do for New Student Services?
ME: Wonderful. I’ve been at UC Berkeley for three years and all my time has been a New Student Services. I have the privilege of focusing on my work really on three main areas: pre-arrival communications and programs for incoming students, parents support at orientation, and GBA programs focused on sexual violence prevention and mental health. So those are my main areas and I also have the esteemed privilege of working with all of the colleges.
LV: So it’s not just engineering that you have to work with all the time.
ME: Everybody, everybody. New Student Services, we are serving every every single one of the 9000 incoming students.
LV: Oh, there’s 9,000?
ME: Yes, they keep us pretty busy.
LV; Is it mostly undergrad or do you also do graduate?
ME: Just undergrad. So we serve about 6000 first years and 3000 transfers, so they keep us plenty busy.
LV: I can imagine. Why should students be excited about Golden Bear Orientation? I know why I’m excited about it but why should the students be excited?
ME: Golden Bear Orientation really is meant to be a holistic welcome to campus.
Rather than having you just come for a day frantically running around campus for 24 hours in the middle of summer and try to figure what’s going on. We recognize there’s way more to Berkeley than just getting your classes, figure out where food is and knowing what bus system to take. We want you to have that build that communication. Recognize that holistic experience that and before classes even start. We want you to feel like you’re set and you have that community. So everyone is new. I think that’s my most exciting part is that every single person is new. The entire campus is focused solely on those new students and we all really get to embrace the fact that there are no silly questions. Everyone’s coming into a new place at a new time and can really build on that sense of community.
LV: Golden Bear Orientation starts with the move-in. So is there anything that students need to know about. What should they know about the move before they get here?
ME: Well our main move-in day is August 14th, that’s a Tuesday, and there’s a lot going on. The great thing with housing is if you have questions that are available all throughout the summer so I would encourage calling if you have questions but you get to pick your move in time. So whether you’re coming from southern California and sitting on I-5 all day or you’re flying from China and you need to book your flight that you get to pick the best time for you for that day to move in. But I think my advice is being patient. It’s a lot going on. Be patient with yourself. Maybe be patient with your family members who are helping you move in on those days. Because we know it’s kind of bittersweet on that moment and that if you really are worried because you’ve left deodorant or sheets at home we actually visits to Target built into orientation, so no worries if you ever left anything at home. We got you taken care of during orientation.
LV: You’ll definitely be able to pick up anything around here. We’re not in some little tiny town.
ME: It’s perfect yes. So it’s a big day and we actually end the day moving with big night with carnivals and petting zoos and bull rides because we know that it’s kind of stressful for folks and we want them to be able to enjoy and relax little bit before orientation officially starts the next morning.
LV: Oh that’s awesome. And so do the events of GBO, is it required attendance or do you get to pick and choose what events you go to?
ME: We get that question all the time especially the question of Is it really seven days or seven days. And yes that is the case and we really expect that all students participate in all component of Golden Bear Orientation and we do that so we build each part to make sure that students succeed. And it could be simple and easy in that moment to say oh I don’t need this or I might not pursue this, I don’t need to spend time here. But we encourage you to take advantage every single component of Golden Bear Orientation. I like to think going to Golden Bear Orientation like classes during your semester. Your professor might not be taking attendance but you know by the end of that sitting in this process and learning from folks and engaging with your peers and connecting them is going to make you more successful on the final. Also we give you plenty of break time so just because all the components and days are long. We want you to also take a break and enjoy and relax and make those connections too, so it’s not all sitting in a lecture. It’s not all just meals all the time. There’s a big balance of different events going on. And if you have questions if you’re concerned about the attendance, about the time caller office. We recognize we’re building a program for 9000 students. It can’t fit everyone perfectly right. We just want folks to call and ask and we’ll walk you through what your schedule may look like, what it looks like for the week because we want you to succeed. We don’t want this to be a hindrance to your success.
LV: OK. And so do you have an idea of what a student’s day might look like during Golden Bear Orientation.
ME: That is a great question. One thing that everyone will have no matter what is food so they can already number one they’re through the day. You’re going to have large scale events. So the beginning we’re going to start with grouping and you’re going to be your orientation leaders and they are current students who are passionate and passionate about making sure you as a new student have a great experience and you’ll be with a small group of other new students. You’re not going be at all 9000 students the whole time. We have big scale events, but you’re also going to small time, where your group takes you on a tour of campus you’re going to experience the city of Berkeley because we recognize that’s a big part of your time here. You’re going to have time with College of Engineering with your advisers and so there’s so many different components actually on our website and we’ve been sending out e-mails to students is kind of a schedule what what to expect in the different components. Although it’s different for every single student. So every small group has a unique schedule. We also give our orientation leaders a lot of ability to add their kind of flair into their group schedule because they have their real life students they know what it’s like here at Berkeley and we want them to impart their wisdom onto the students in their group.
LV: So every group is going to have at least one student orientation leader.
ME: At least one, yeah. And specifically if you are a transfer student one of your leaders will also be a transfer student as well. So with that shared identity of recognizing your unique experience coming into Berkeley.
LV: I like the idea that they get to build into it something that they thought was important, something they wanted to make sure that the students find out about.
ME: Yes. So one of our most popular items that our orientation leaders took folks on last year was Boba tours in the city of Berkeley or the best places to nap around campus. Those happened to be some of our most popular activities that our orientation leaders to our groups to last year.
LV; I want to know where these napping places are. The number one question that I seem to get about about Golden Bear Orientation is about the food and I know they’re going to get fed, but what are they getting better are they getting to choose, is it a really strict menu?
ME: So three meals a day breakfast for everyone is going to grab and go at the different residence halls. And even if you are a student who’s not living in university right then it’s all. You’re welcome to go in with our fancy wristbands to identify you as an individual within the program and you can just go in and grab whatever works for you. And then lunch and dinner. We have meals at the residence halls, as well as food trucks on campus. So say for example you’re going to one of the residence halls for dining, that will be the same food at every single residence hall for that meal. Lunch and dinner will vary. And if any folks have extreme allergies, our campus is really great about meeting gluten kosher or any of those kind of needs that students have. My favorite meal though of Golden Bear Orientation is that every single student will have at least one of their meals at a restaurant on Telegraph Avenue. Maybe you need a burrito or you need anything or ice cream or again Boba, whatever you need. So we want students to explore so at least one of their meals will be held at a restaurant right off campus.
LV: Oh that’s a great way to get to explore the neighborhood and surrounding Berkeley area. I know the food around here is fantastic.
ME: Yes. And I know we’ve heard a lot from different students that they’ve now become they found so many of her restaurants through that program that they’re able to go back day after day during their first semester on campus.
LV: And this is one part of GBO that you think is the most important that take away that students need to really make sure that they go and listen and pay attention? I know we want them to do it for all of it but if there was one that you had to really focus on?
ME: There are two different things, I can’t pick between just one. So first is Bear Pact, it’s actually a program that I work heavily on and it’s a performance play that is written and performed by real life students. We’re going to talk about how we can build a safe and inclusive community on this campus. And they actually talk specifically about ending sexual violence and talking about how they can care for themselves as individual students. so it’s pretty incredible to see how students share this message and the hopes that we’re building a safer and inclusive community.
LV: Oh that’s awesome.
ME: On the flipside the other really fun one is Day in the Bay. Everyone of our students will spend at least a half of their day as part of Golden Bear Orientation exploring the Bay Area. So that might mean you’re taking a cruise out to San Francisco or going to the Oakland Museum or if you’re a transfer student you’re actually picking from 100 different companies who will host you for the day. So maybe you’re looking into nonprofits so when that email comes up or transfers they can self select what program or company they want to go see. So we want to get folks out and away from campus as well. So recognizing building a community here but exploring the area around you and learning how to take BART while you’re at it.
LV: My most exciting thing I’m looking forward to is we get a full day with all the new incoming engineer students, which is pretty awesome.
ME: And your schedule is looking pretty good. I think they should be very excited.
LV: I think we got quite a few times that they get to do and so do you have any tips for students of how to make the most of their time at GBO?
ME: I think engage, ask questions and really spend time with your small group and make those connections and support from those students because they’re going to be the ones in your residence halls and your classes and you’re going to have really appreciate your having this kind of carefree time with them before classes even start. Take advantage of your break time. We know that it’s a busy week and we want you to be successful once classes start. And that means when it’s break time you can go sit and do your own thing and maybe listen to a different engineering podcast that just came about that day. I think the best advice is get some good shoes. It’s a long week but also, Berkeley is on a hill. I remember my first week working here. I was pleasantly surprised by how many steps I accumulated in a day. You will get plenty of those. So get some good shoes and know that like I said earlier everyone’s new and so take advantage of that there’s no silly questions. And this whole campus is built for you in that one week. It’s just all about you. So taking advantage of that and having a good time.
LV: And you have an orientation leader that’s been here for a year.
ME: At least one year. We have seniors, we have orientation leaders who have continued, summer transfers. We have they are really a reflection of all the many student identities and experiences. And so they are also going to want to make sure you get connected with other folks too because they want to share their story. They want to give you the opportunity to share how you got to Berkeley and what you want to get out of your time here.
LV: Is there anything else that you want to add that we didn’t touch on yet?
ME: I think the main thing is if you have questions or you need support know that Berkeley is a place that has support systems, whether that’s within the College of Engineering, if you have academic questions or housing if you don’t know where your housing unit is or are our office of new student services. Because I think Berkeley is a place that if you ask questions people will be there just for you. But that requires you to ask, to explore, to engage a little bit and then always check your email.
LV: Yes…always check your email.
ME: and enjoy the summer. I think that’s, that’s it is we. We know that it’s going to be a lot once you’re right here and we want it to be an incredible time. But take advantage of being with family or friends or pets when you’re at home now or exploring. So just take advantage of your time here and enjoy those folks who hopefully helped you get to this place.
LV: Well thank you so much Micky for coming in today.
ME: Well thank you for having me. Can’t wait to meet you all in person in August.
LV: And thank you everyone for tuning in. And we’ll talk to you again next week for the Not So Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer, goodbye!