This week on the (Not So) Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer podcast we are splitting in two: first-year and transfer student experiences of transferring to UC Berkeley and becoming Berkeley Engineers. The second podcast is with two transfer students that just finished up their first year at UC Berkeley: Jonathan Kim, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences major, and Daisy O’Mahoney, Materials Science and Engineering major, share their experiences of transitioning from a California community college, finding study groups and tackling time management. If you have more questions for Jonathan and Daisy, send an email to ESS and we’ll pass it on.
Links & Resources suggested by Daisy and Jonathan:
- Listen to Tiffany Reardon’s Preparing for Berkeley Engineering podcast
- Check out test banks such as Tau Beta Pi’s
- Engineering specific tutoring: engineering.berkeley.edu/caee
- Watch webcast and legacy course content
- Make an appointment with your ESS adviser.
LAURA VOGT: Hi my name is Laura Vogt and I’m the Communications and Events Manager for Engineering Student Services in the College of Engineering. Thank you for joining us this week for The (Not So) Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer. This week we are focusing on the first semester experience and breaking the podcast into two parts – freshmen and transfer. My guests today for this half of the podcast are transfer students that transferred to Cal last year, welcome Daisy and Jonathan
DAISY/JONATHAN: Hi, thanks for having us.
LV: Let’s start off with some introductions. Daisy can you tell us a little about yourself and what you’re studying?
DAISY: Yeah. So I transferred from Santa Barbara City College and I’m majoring in materials science and engineering and I’m very interested in magnetic electronic and optic materials and I’m hoping to go to grad school to study that.
LV: Excellent. Thank you so much for being here. And Jonathan your turn and tell us a little about yourself.
JONATHAN: Yes. So I transferred from Bakersfield College. My major here is EECS and I’ve yet to decide my core study but I want to go to cryptography in the end.
LV: Oh excellent. Thank you again both of you for being here. I really appreciate your time and I’m excited for you to share some of your experience and your expertise about coming to Cal with our new incoming students. So starting it off what do you remember about choosing that first semester schedule?
DAISY: I remember doing GBA and at the end of it it just gives you a list of classes that you should take. And I initially was like, all right that’s it, I’m just gonna sign up for those. But after talking to one of my friends, we realized that based on the certain prerequisites we had taken, it was having us sign up for classes that had prerequisites before taking those. And so, I had to go back in my group fix it. So my advice for that is just whatever it gives you just make sure it’s the right schedule for you specifically.
LV: Well that’s good to know. Okay, Jonathan what about you.
JONATHAN: When I first signed up for classes, I didn’t know what I was doing, I had to talk to a counselor. At least from my EECS perspective many of the lower division classes don’t carry over. So my first year I spent here was just finishing up my lower division and I’m just starting my upper divisions this coming fall. So, I will say that in community college if you can, try to find the community college that will transfer over the courses. If you can’t your first semester here will be taking lower division courses, essentially.
LV: And when you do that they usually give you an extra semester too, right? You’re not having to stay with the four semester rule. Do you have any tips for choosing the classes, like how did you choose a specific professor or the timing or anything along those lines?
JONATHAN: This is from my EECS perspective. I went ahead and chose a first one, which was the easy one and the second one was just a really hard one, which I paid for it. But I will say the first year will always be the hardest because you’re acclimating to the rhythm of Berkeley and Berkeley just expects more of you and expects you to perform at your best not just mediocre essentially.
LV: Daisy what about you.
DAISY: So for my major the classes are very set in stone where we have to take and all the classes are only offered once each year not once each semester. So there wasn’t that much choice in choosing for me but I know that I majored as you can choose and one way to decide if you want to sign up one teacher vs. another is the website Berkeley Time. You can go there and see the grade average for certain teachers, which can help you choose, if you have a choice in your classes.
LV: Well that’s good to know. What was registration day like for you? You’ve got all the transfer students are registering on the same day so that seemed to be a problem at all?
DAISY: I was so excited on registration day. The day I finally signed up for classes because I feel like I was still in disbelief that I was actually going to Berkeley and once I was signed up for classes it’s was like, alright, I’m actually, finally a Berkeley student. I just signed up for my classes at the time there wasn’t any like I didn’t have any problems.
LV: And once you register how did you monitor your schedule through the summer? Were you’re having to worry about changing classes or if you were on a waitlist or anything along those lines?
DAISY: I was on the waitlist for one of my labs and so I would just periodically check to see if I moved up and luckily I got off the waitlist by the time classes started.
LV: Did you get any notification or it was just because you kept going in and checking?
DAISY: Well I saw when I signed up for the class that it put me on the waitlist and so I was personally like stressed out like oh I hope we get in this class. So I just kept checking until I was off the waitlist.
LV: We actually have a podcast that Tiffany Reardon did earlier this summer that talked about classes that you can take for free online. Oh the Khan Academy I think one of them was, that give you some programming background if you need to. And she also suggested looking at tests you can go through and find test banks for different courses and give yourself an idea of what’s coming up.
DAISY: I really recommend utilizing test space here. Tau Beta Pi has test archives for most classes and is specifically engineering, I think, and that’s super helpful to see what the class is going to expect of you.
LV: Well, it’s nice so you can prepare for that but not just prepare for testing but prepare so you know what you’re getting into.
DAISY: Yes, it has syllabuses too. So you can read the syllabus for your class beforehand too. LV: We talked a little bit about that transition between community college and Berkeley. What did you find to be the hardest part of that transition?
JONATHAN: For me, I had the lone wolf mentality. Where I studied alone, succeeded alone, fell alone. Coming here I realized you can’t succeed at Berkeley by yourself. You need people to help you. You will have rough days and you need people to talk to you backup and vice versa. For me, my study habits had to change a lot. Where I started the day before the exam at my college and I’d get an A, here I tried that once, it came with very disastrous midterm. You just got to gradually learn here, because here, they test you on knowledge not just on the material learned. They want to know if you could apply what you learned.
LV: OK, Daisy?
DAISY: The amount of time that you have to put into classes is very different. And just like what classes expect of you. At my community college I was always able to get my homework done way ahead of time and I’ve plenty of time to study the material outside of the homework and then here, the homework takes up so much time that I don’t have the time to study in the same way that I did before. Navigating that was difficult. And then also, the exams are very different because I’m used to having time to read over the questions and really think about it before I answer and then hear a lot of times it’s a 50 minute exam, cram as many questions in there as possible, so you just go as fast as you can and just answer as much as you can. And so that was also very different to adjust to that.
LV: That leads me to my next question. How did you manage your time? What did you have to change for your time management tools?
DAISY: Well I ended up like overworking myself and just not taking any time off because I’m used to being able to get everything done and be super confident for an exam before I take it. And here I just can’t ever get to that level of being super confident for the exam beforehand. So I fell into a trap of overworking not taking any time off and by the time finals came around I was kind of burnt out and didn’t do as well in the finals as I had done earlier in the class when I was more motivated. So just make sure you take time to relax but not too much time to relax.
LV: You need to find that balance.
JONATHAN: Yeah same thing for me. The first semester here I over relaxed, the second semester, I did not at all. They both had the same result for me academically but I finally figured out how to study. It’s about really time management. You could put in three hours into a homework assignment and not get nothing done but for the right study group, you get the same homework done in an hour. So it’s just more about how you manage your time, who your mentor is, and how your study group functions.
DAISY: In community college, if I get stuck on something, I’d really want to figure it out and push through it and do it myself and ask for help as a last resort. But it just does not work here. There’s not enough time and it’s really important to have friends that can help you on the homework, go to tutors, go to office hours, don’t shy away from giving help. Even if you haven’t spent a long time struggling on the material, just go get help.
LV: So we’ve started talking about study groups. How did you make those study groups? How did you meet people? How did you get into that environment where you’re able to study with folks?
DAISY: My major is it’s very small and so there were six transfers total and we just the first week found each other in the class. I was just sit and listen to hear if anybody said that they would transfer and then go over and say you’re a transfer? And so we all got to know each other and then just created a study group out of all six of us transfers. Now there’s also like a couple non-transfers that have joined in our study groups, just because we’re in the same classes and see each other every day.
JONATHAN: Before transferring here I didn’t know how influential the ESS center was going to be, the tutors. What I will take from the tutors I will try to help my fellow peers, if I can. And that helped me learn a lot because by teaching others that means you actually understand the material. So the study group I have, usually has one tutor. That’s how I would approach it.
DAISY: I think the ESS tutoring is great, CAEE is great too. Most of the people in there who I think are tutors and studying are transfer students. So if you just want to meet other transfer students in engineering, there’s going to be a bunch of transfer students in there.
LV: Do you have any suggestions for students of things they could do over the summer to be better prepared for Berkeley in August?
DAISY: I think I should have relaxed more my summer before. I worked all summer, and did T-PREP and then immediately started classes. It was just a lot and I was exhausted when I started classes. So, maybe don’t relax the whole summer but take a week or so off before you start classes, just to be very refreshed when you actually start at Berkeley.
LV: That makes sense.
JONATHAN: Berkeley does offer webcasts for legacy classes, up to I believe 1998, for almost every course offered at Berkeley. If you do want to get ahead for the first couple of weeks you could watch videos.
DAISY: I also recommend just being in Berkeley for a little while before you start classes to explore the area and do fun things, so you can like the area and have fun things to do before just like the stress gets dumped on you.
LV: And did you meet with your ESS advisor at all during this last year.
DAISY: Yeah, I did. I have Kathy Barrett, she’s very helpful. I feel like transfers are really good at making their own schedule and figuring out all the classes that they need to take because we had to do that to get here. It was nice that I went and checked in with her. I was like oh here are the classes that I want to take. And then she actually had information for me that I didn’t know about. which then actually did change like what I was choosing to take. I wanted to do research for a class credit and I went and I talked to her about that and she was able to help me and so I was like got three units of research with a grade. So that also helped my GPA and she was able to help set that up for me.
LV: Oh that’s good. Did you have a problem making the appointment or was it a pretty easy process?
DAISY: It’s a pretty easy process. It is just online and yeah really straightforward. It’s like a couple buttons to make an appointment.
JONATHAN: I regret that I didn’t actually. Yeah, I was all over the place and I basically navigated through Berkeley by talking to friends and mentors and the tutors here. I’m sure if I talked to an ESS adviser, I’m sure it would have been less painful.
LV: So definitely take advantage of the advisors that you have.
JONATHAN: Yeah, yeah.
LV: And if you could go back and do one thing differently your first semester at Berkeley, what would it have been, Jonathan?
JONATHAN: I would have actually heeded the advice of Tiffany Reardon and the entire ESS staff. You know, I’ll talk to the professors, get to know them, go to office hours. Treat them like human beings, not like some demigods, who sit on top of clouds. And actually get out of your shell. If you’re like you know shy like me, it’s really hard to make friends but if you don’t come out of your shell at Berkeley, you’ll never out. You just have to explore what’s out there.
LV: And Daisy.
DAISY: Mine’s kind of similar. I wish I had gone to office hours more. I was also very intimidated by these big shot Berkeley professors but they are here to help you and they’re excited about students, that are excited about the material. And at the times I have gone to office hours it’s so nice and helpful. And then you get to make connections with the professors too. One of my friends went to office hours every week for this one class and now they’re doing research with that professor. And I also wish I’d just gone outside more. I spent so much time inside studying and so yeah I would have just spent more time, like on weekends, just going and sitting on the grass, in the sun, with a smoothie. Relax.
LV: The Berkeley campus is pretty gorgeous.
DAISY: Yes it’s so beautiful. Take it in.
LV: Well thank you both Daisy and Jonathan for coming today. I really appreciate your time and being here to visit us and share some of your experiences.
DAISY/JONATHAN: Thank you. It’s been great.
LV: And thank you everyone for tuning in and listening to The (Not So) Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer And we’ll be back next week. Thank you.