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

When I first came to UC Berkeley I was met with socials, mixers, and panel sessions. There seemed to be an emphasis on networking and the idea of using each other to climb the ladder. 

It felt as though everyone knew someone of some type of importance, or was at least acquainted, in their field or career of choice. Almost everyone I met had already completed a number of internships, had recommendation letters lined up for them, and boasted over 100 connections on LinkedIn. 

I felt extremely behind and questioned my belonging at the No. 1 public university in the nation. Did I really belong here if I hadn’t been writing for my school’s newspaper since I was in the sixth or seventh grade? Was it really impressive that the only “professional” experience I had up until that point was during my first two years of college?

Did I really belong here if I hadn’t been writing for my school’s newspaper since I was in the sixth or seventh grade?

Attending a university that is so rigorous and competitive in nearly every aspect had me wondering if my admittance had been by mere luck. 

Like any transfer student, my lifestyle was very different from what it is now. While I was at my community college back home, I had to balance juggling school, work, taking care of my family, my relationship with my boyfriend, and my mental health.

When I wasn’t in class I was at work, and when I wasn’t at work I was with my family or taking my siblings to school. Life post-pandemic took a while to adjust to, but I did it, and I found my routine. I worked for local newspapers in my city as well as my college’s newspaper, I worked a part-time job at a popular coffee shop by my old high school, I helped my mom take care of my grandma and siblings while she and my dad were at work, I spent time with my boyfriend, and I was content. I don’t think I did much networking because it didn’t fit my schedule nor did I know how impactful it was on your career. So when I came to Cal and realized many of the events consisted of networking opportunities, I thought I was extremely behind.

For a while, I experienced significant imposter syndrome. I felt as though everyone else was succeeding and I was the only one behind. I drowned myself in networking and social events, and scheduled myself for anything and everything that would be beneficial to my future, career-wise. I was tired, but I thought that this is what Berkeley was supposed to be like. Although it was exhausting, it was all for my future.

I was taking a class last semester where my instructor would invite guest speakers to talk to our class about their experiences and how they started out. I remember listening to one speaker that particularly piqued my interest because he had a similar path to mine – starting at community college.

Upon listening to him talk about his journey, I realized that we were very similar in that we both participated in organizations at our community colleges and were very involved with our community in one way or another. I realized that I had been networking, too, in my community college. I participated in these clubs and organizations as well as local ones in my city, and I talked to the people in these groups, connected with them, and got to know them. In my own way, I also contributed to my future in some way by involving myself in these groups and networking.

Being a transfer student doesn’t mean I’m not as good as students who started at a four-year university in their freshman year. It doesn’t mean I’m behind nor does it mean that I’m less than in any way. 

We’ve all experienced our own paths and journeys, and I’ve come to realize that it’s not even about the path we take but the experiences we have while taking it. Regardless of whether I did genuinely network or not in my community college, I had other things going on for me like any other college student. I had a job, took care of my family, was involved in my community and college, and was taking care of myself. 

I’m extremely grateful for the experiences I’ve had at my community college and the person they’ve helped shape me to be. I wouldn’t have changed any of it.