This week on the (Not So) Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer, we are switching it from last week and talking with students that began their Cal career as transfer students. Transfer students have some of the same struggles but with a twist since they are starting as juniors. We spoke with three students that have different interests, majors and backgrounds to give you insight into how they are making their time as a Berkeley Engineer successful. Tune in to begin your Berkeley Engineering journey with a head start.
- Make an appointment with your ESS adviser beginning July 5th
- Tutoring schedule at Center for Access to Engineering Excellence
Laura Vogt: Welcome back for another week of the Not So Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer. My name is Laura Vogt and I’m the communications and events manager for Engineering Student Services in the College of Engineering. This week I interviewed three students about what it means to be a Berkeley Engineer transfer student. What tips do they have, what they found the most useful and why they are enjoying their classes. I did the interview in two sections. The first is with Christopher Branner Augmon and Amanda Tomlinson and then I caught up with Nery Barrera a couple days later. Chris can you tell me what your major is and what community college you went to?
Chris: Hi Laura, my major is EECS (electrical engineering and computer sciences) and I’m from San Joaquin Delta college in Stockton.
Laura Vogt: And Amanda?
Amanda: My major is also EECS and I’m from San Diego Community College District from San Diego.
Laura Vogt: So my first question is what advice would you give to our listeners that are transferring in from a community college?
Chris: I would say a lot of the course material for these courses is online already. So I would read over it before I’d take any other classes because it’s hard to fully prepare yourself for the rigor at Berkeley.
Laura Vogt: So over the summer I know some of the students are already here and they’ve SIR’d and so they’re getting prepared to start. They register on July 10th is when they’re all registering this year. So do you have any advice for them that maybe before they register or after they register of what to do over the summer is there something that they should specifically look at?
Amanda: Definitely look at CS 61A. All incoming transfers are probably going to take 61A and 16A in their first semester and all the current course material is online so you can go and do the problem sets and like look at the textbooks and stuff that they have.
Laura Vogt: OK.
Chris: Get your financial aid ready because you don’t want to… like when the semester starts. Everybody is rushing Cal Student Central and they’re super busy and they’re going to have like super long wait times. Get everything prepared and submit your FAFSA on time and you should be Okay.
Laura Vogt: Amanda, so you’re from San Diego and Southern California. What was the hardest part of transitioning and is there anything that you did to make it easier?
Amanda: Other than just the high cost of living in the Bay Area, it was hard not to have a car. So, like you’re going to spend more on rent but also like factor in you’re going to probably want to take Uber and stuff a lot too. And just like not having as much autonomy and freedom to move around.
Laura Vogt: Both of you are part of our Transfer Pre-Engineering Program (T-PREP). Can you tell us what students who are planning on being in the program can expect to get out of it? Want to start Amanda?
Amanda: I would say number one find your study buddies and find a group that you can work with in the upcoming semesters. That’s what I got out of it the most.
Chris: Yeah it’s kind of like a it’s like a social group. You can develop friends, so you don’t come here lonely.
Laura Vogt: Are either one of you involved in research?
Amanda: Yeah we both are.
Laura Vogt: Can you tell me how you got involved in your current lab then.
Amanda: So I asked several grad students if they had projects for me and the first couple ones didn’t. But I finally found the project that I could work on and I’m in the SWARM lab now.
Laura Vogt: And what are you doing there?
Amanda: I’m working on circuits, so designing circuits for them.
Laura Vogt: What about you Chris?
Chris: So my process was a little bit different. I went into a professor’s office hours. I really like his professor, I went to his office hours and I want to talk about course material but in the midst of us doing this there were grad students coming in and out and what they were talking about was really interesting. And so, like I asked him more questions and my involvement in the research was kind of a kind of grew organically from there. And then at the end we were just kind of in agreement that would be great if I could get in the lab over the summer.
Laura Vogt: When you were investigating the research that you wanted to do. Was there some specific process that you went through or anything?
Amanda: I would say if you don’t already know a professor but you know you want to work with them. You can look to see what papers they publish and which grad students are on those papers. And then for me it was easier to approach a grad student than a professor so you can ask the grad students that work under the professor you want to work with her research project.
Chris: The project I’m working on wasn’t even the one being talked about in his office but he just kind of like put me on an interesting project. And I enjoy it.
Laura Vogt: It’s good if you enjoy it that’s the important part of the end of it. And are any of you involved in clubs or student groups?
Amanda: I am I’m involved in HKN.
Laura Vogt: And what do you do with it?
Amanda: The past two semesters I’ve been an officer so I’ve had various duties. The first semester I planned activities for the group, like the members and then the second semester I put on a decal which is a student run class.
Laura Vogt: And how did you decide that HKN was a group that you wanted to work with?
Amanda: It was just known on campus like they do exam reviews and you know they have the exam archive. So as soon as I was able to join I wanted to.
Laura Vogt: And do either of you work on campus?
Chris: So I have worked on campus in the past and I’m going to work on campus and again starting on Monday.
Laura Vogt: What are you what are you doing on campus?
Chris: So my first position I had two of them I was a tutor and well I was a reader and a office hours TA for EE16A. And so that’s in the past. And on Monday I’m going to be a tutor in the ESS (Engineering Student Services).
Laura Vogt: Oh for the Center for Access to Engineering Excellence.
Laura Vogt: And I know we’re big proponents of telling students to go there and get help, ask questions, get to know people. So you can come talk to Chris now.
Chris: Come talk to me if you want any help in the 61 series.
Laura Vogt: Oh fantastic. And what would you say has been your most enjoyable course so far Chris?
Chris: EE 105.
Laura Vogt: Why?
Chris: Because it was really hard.
Laura Vogt: And that made it enjoyable?
Chris: Yeah. Actually you know let me elaborate on a little bit. So there’s EE 105, there’s CS 61B and EECS 151. And those are all three of my favorite courses and so EE 105 because it really woke me up to the Berkeley rigor. 61A wasn’t too bad in my opinion. 16A, 16B weren’t too bad in my opinion. But 105 was like the first EE course where I said “Oh my god what have I done to myself?” EECS 151 was kind of the same thing the workload was super high. But the material was really interesting and 61 B. The coursework was really interesting and I loved the professor. I love the professor for all three of those classes but Josh Hug always sticks out to me as someone who is just super friendly and really fair.
Laura Vogt: And you felt like you got a lot of the class when you finish it?
Chris: Yeah I got a lot of it. Oh the projects were amazing too.
Laura Vogt: Oh good. Amanda?
Amanda: I also want to say EE 105 was my favorite class for the same reasons as Chris. It was really hard. I liked it. It was like totally new material. So nothing that we that we had ever seen before.
Laura Vogt: So if you could go back and change one thing from your first year, what would you do differently?
Chris: So the rigor at Berkeley is much higher for me than community college. When I came in I was kind of taking it easy. I was like, “I got this – I got straight A’s, everything is good.” And then I kind of floundered a little bit but I still got grades. But I would I would tell the students to prepare as much as you can beforehand. Don’t come in expecting Berkeley to be like community college where you can kind of not go to class and stuff. Go to discussion, go to a lecture and study the material beforehand and you should be OK. But don’t, don’t think it’s easy.
Laura Vogt: And so if someone were to ask you what resources on campus that you found most useful is there one campus resource that stands out to you?
Chris: Go to office hours. Office hours are a huge help if there’s any hole in your comprehension. The professor can fill it up.
Laura Vogt: Do you have any notes for how to make an office hours successful? I know a lot of people are concerned about or even being intimidated to go to office hours, so how would you approach that?
Chris: Well the professors hold office hours specifically to help you. So I wouldn’t be intimidated at all. I would go in with questions already arranged thought. Like maybe make like don’t go when not having studied any of the material and saying teach me all of the semester. Go in and say, Professor I’ve studied the material. I still don’t understand this this needs a little bit of clarification. Can you please help me. And then there’ll be more than willing to help you.
Laura Vogt: Is there any other last minute notes or anything that you haven’t talked about today that you think the incoming transfer students should know or can benefit from.
Amanda: If you’re looking for housing there’s Facebook group housing. That’s a good way to find it.
Chris: So I would say please get outside of your area of campus. Like a lot of people, EECS people in particular, I think they spend a lot of time in Soda and Cory. Go to Sproul, go to the RSF, take in your environment because there’s more to Berkeley than just labs.
Laura Vogt: Fantastic. Well thank you both so much for taking the time to come in here and talk to us today. I really really appreciate it. Thank you.
Chris & Amanda: Yeah no problem.
Laura Vogt: Hi I am excited today we’ve got Nery Barrera visiting with us. Our last interview we had with Chris and Amanda and they were both EECS students so we’re bringing in some other students and their majors. Nery can you tell us your name again, what your major is, what community college you went to, and maybe a little bit more about you as a transfer student.
Nery: Okay. Thanks for inviting me. My name is Nery Barrera, I transferred from Skyline College last year. My major is environmental engineering science. Another thing about me is that I’m also a student parent.
Laura Vogt: And what advice would you give our listeners that are transferring here from a community college?
Nery: Well I think that we have seen that it’s common between transfer students is the intimidation to transfer from a community college to a one of the best universities of the world. So my advice is don’t feel intimidated because if you were admitted to UC Berkeley, well they already have the potential to succeed here.
Laura Vogt: And how have you gone about creating a community at Berkeley?
Nery: My major is one of the smallest in the college of engineering. So I had to go through a lot of classes without knowing too much people. So one thing that I do is that I tried to speak to everyone. For example in my one of my engineering classes, I didn’t know anybody. So I had to create a group from scratch and start to talking to people and right now actually were really good friends.
Laura Vogt: Is there anything particular that you start talking to them about or do you have like an opening line or anything like that that you start a conversation with?
Nery: Pretty much just about homework. How are you doing the homework? And so after that you start seeing that people are struggling in the same areas as you. So you start like see more things in common. OK so let’s meet two to finish this homework. And when you see you have five people working alongside.
Laura Vogt: To go off script a little bit, have you ever gone to faculty office hours to help either make a stronger community or just to talk to the faculty?
Nery: Yes for example. Well all the time, I’d like to go talk to my professor, to my GSI (Graduate Student Instructor). And you can see that there’s always people like there. They have to help everyone, so while they are helping someone else, you can talk about your homework with some other students and you can actually get help from them.
Laura Vogt: So you can even do that networking starting in office hours?
Nery: Exactly. Yes.
Laura Vogt: And are you involved in research at UC Berkeley?
Nery: Yes I am. I’m currently working at the College of Natural Resources. We are doing environmental research and I’m pretty much in charge of analyzing data.
Laura Vogt: What advice do you have for other students are looking for research?
Nery: Try to do networking. Talk to people and always show your potential because you never know who might be looking at you.
Laura Vogt: And are you involved in any clubs or student groups on campus.
Nery: So right now I’M part of T-PREP, so we actually have several activities. I also have in mind joining the Society of Engineers Scientists. The last two semesters I haven’t been able to even though I want to because when we have the meetings, it’s at the same time that I have classes. So it’s very it has been like yeah, not helpful.
Laura Vogt: So if you can make it work in your schedule there is groups that you want to be part of.
Nery: Yes definitely.
Laura Vogt: Have you worked with your ESS adviser?
Nery: Yes. All the time. I call on my ESS adviser all the time. I send her e-mails, she is very helpful. I think one of the mistakes that students do is assume that something is going to happen or something is not going to happen. But your ESS adviser is there to tell you, yes you can do this or maybe you can do that. So I think it’s it’s a really good resource.
Laura Vogt: So use your ESS adviser as more proactively for different activities or questions that you have.
Nery: Yes. All the time. So for example, whenever I have a question like can I take this this course or maybe this one. My adviser has been really helpful to tell him yes you can do it or maybe try some other stuff.
Laura Vogt: And what has been your most enjoyable course so far?
Nery: So far is E 177. It’s advanced programming with MATLAB. Pretty much they taught us how to create apps in MATLAB and how to apply those apps to engineering topics.
Laura Vogt: And if you could go back and do one thing differently in your first year of Berkeley What would you change?
Nery: So I would be more confident of most of my potential. More aware of what I can do what I can accomplish and more aware of what I know.
Laura Vogt: So you mentioned earlier that you were a parent and I know we have quite a few student parents that are coming in this year. Do you have any ideas or expectations or hints that they could do to take into effect?
Nery: So being a student parent takes a lot of your time that you can use up this study. So pretty much my advice is try to take advantage of every little time if you can. Like do homework or read something in one hour that you are maybe taking a break. Try to use it to accomplish as much as you can because you don’t want to like take time to spend free up with you or with your family just to to study.
Laura Vogt: And is there anything else you wanted to add that you didn’t get a chance to say yet?
Nery: Well I think that will be it. Thank you very much again for inviting me.
Laura Vogt: Thank you so much for coming today and really appreciate your time.
Nery: Thank you.
Laura Vogt: And we will be back next week with another edition of the (Not So) Secret Guide to Being a Berkeley Engineer. And thank you for joining us.