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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Berkeley chapter.

Platanos fritos with frijoles and tortillas for breakfast. Carne asada at my grandmother’s house nearly every Sunday afternoon. My dad blasting Maná every morning before work. All of these things were part of my daily life before starting my freshman year at Berkeley. 

When I was first accepted to Berkeley, I knew nothing about the student demographic or what the school was really like. My first impression of Berkeley was based on my experience at Cal Day. I remember seeing so many people and campus clubs tabling down Upper Sproul.

“Wow, this school is the place for me,” I thought.

After my parents moved me in and started orientation week, I started to feel out of place, yet I was hopeful and eager to experience college classes and life. 

However, my first semester at Berkeley was not the best experience I thought it’d be. I struggled with being far from home and found myself not being able to adjust to the academic rigor. But the worst thing I struggled with was the lack of community. I rarely saw people that looked like me, and most of the time I was the only Latina in my lectures or discussion classes. 

Eventually, I got tired of feeling like an outsider at Berkeley and decided to make the most of my experience. I joined Raices, which is the Latine Recruitment and Retention Center here at Cal, as well as Trenza, a Latina club on campus that focuses on creating sisterhood. I felt so much joy attending all of these socials and events where I’d see people that looked like me and even shared the same experiences as me. 

Now that I’m in my sophomore year at Berkeley, I’ve found a community. I learned that sometimes, you just have to step out of your comfort zone and talk to people! Try new things.

I would’ve never thought that I’d be on the board at CAFE (Central Americans for Empowerment) as part of the marketing committee, as well as frequently studying at the Latinx Resource Center. I even see local fruit vendors on Sproul, selling delicious, ripe mangos and watermelon!

I hope to support and be there for other Latinas at Berkeley who might feel out of place. I want them to know that there is a place here for you at Berkeley and to make the most out of your college experience! After all, four years does go by very fast.

Melissa Ayala

UC Berkeley '26

Melissa is currently a sophomore at UC Berkeley, double majoring in History and Political Economy. In her free time, Melissa enjoys watching movies, updating her Spotify playlists, and reading a book.