Hello from UC Berkeley

September 7, 2018

College for most of our students is still a ways off, but regardless of their future pursuits or destination, positive attitudes fostered early such as our school’s seven learner goals grow to become success drivers in later life.


THS is fortunate to be filled with amazing students and their families who understand the importance of diversity and being in a supportive community. We hope that as each new senior class graduates and starts their journey at college, they reflect back to the school and community that helped them get there. This week, we hear from one of our first four graduates on starting college. Ignacio, more affectionately known as “Iggy”, who in so many ways helped us shape the school writes to us in his first week at UC Berkeley on being one of 8000 freshmen and transfer students and his first impressions of college.




Dear Dr Jadis,


Our week-long “Golden Bear” Orientation just ended, and today was the first day of classes at Berkeley!


So far, I’ve been really liking it.  


The campus

I have to say, I didn’t really know what to expect for the campus (Google Maps didn’t do a very good job this time), but as soon as I stepped foot on campus, I really started liking it.


The campus is lively and vibrant and can get really crowded (reminding me of even Central or Mong Kok), especially during the time in between classes.  


The terrain is interesting: the campus slopes upwards on a hill, a bit like San Francisco or HKU for that matter.  Speaking about the architecture, each building has its own distinctive style and personality (they all look extremely different), but seen together, appear to complement each other. To give you an idea, here are some pictures of the architecture I took:


The famous Campanile or Sather Tower in the background.  There are an assortment of bells inside from which they play interesting theme songs like from Star Wars during football games and the like.  





The photos don’t capture it all, but the actual campus as well as the city of Berkeley looks beautiful.  


This is a view of Wurster Hall, the home of the College of Environmental Design, where I’ll be taking my architecture courses.  As you can see, the portion of the building sticking up looks a bit like the head of a dragon, and that’s exactly what they call it; they call it “Dragon’s Head.”  During orientation, we had a scavenger hunt competition where we had to team up and take selfies on Instagram in different locations throughout the building to rack up points so I know it pretty well now.  


Anyway, you may notice that the building looks really “basic": the outside is just concrete (there’s not even paint) and everything is super bare bones, without any decoration.  Some people even think the building is pretty ugly. But there’s actually a point to this style. From my understanding, the architect of this building wanted to say that architecture is function first. Its about fundamental building blocks not about all the fancy decorations and ornament. Some people claim another subtle hidden purpose could also be because they don’t want architecture students to take inspiration from the building.


My room

My move-in went pretty smooth...although we did get an expected workout when the only lift in the building broke down and my parents and I had to carry up the first few pieces of luggage up five floors (I live on the 5th floor). Mercifully the lift was fixed before we moved the heaviest piece of luggage up.  


All that climbing is not for nothing because the view from my room is great (I can even see the coast!). And the size of my room exceeded my expectations. Luxury by HK standards. Gigantic windows too!

Please see this picture:



During orientation, all freshmen were split up into smaller groups led by orientation leaders. We had a group of around 50 led by two orientation leaders. Here, I met a number of people majoring in many different things, from political science to chemistry to business. The experience was truly enjoyable while hectic at the same time! The activities officially ran from 9am to 12am everyday for a week and we also had to squeeze breakfast in beforehand.


Included in the activities were a ton of icebreakers, as well as co


llege programming (for our specific colleges, so for me, it was in the College of Environmental Design) and training about serious issues encountered in college, e.g., sexual harassment, consent, drinking.  Before going to Berkeley, there were two online courses I had to take about the prevention of those things (sexual harassment, assault, etc), how to be an active bystander, and how to seek help.


I’ll talk about some of the highlights of orientation below.


Crazy-huge incoming student class

On the first day, we, that is all the freshmen and new transfer students, gathered together in Haas Pavilion, Berkeley’s giant stadium for holding basketball games. We pretty much filled up the stadium - there were around 8000 people.


Then several speakers (Directors of various departments, current students) welcomed us to Berkeley. The Band of over 50 people and the cheerleader team performed. During this event, you could also see, hear, feel and sense the Berkeley spirit that everyone had. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a crowd this engaged. They clapped, laughed, and roared “Go Bears” with amazing enthusiasm.  


Moreover, the scale of the whole thing was mind-blowing.  I’ll send you some videos via WhatsApp to give you an idea.


We also held the Chancellor’s Convocation at the Haas Pavilion.  


One day at night, the incoming class also gathered together in the California Memorial Stadium and formed the biggest human letter so far in history, supposedly smashing all world records.  This is a video of the event last year, as the new one hasn’t been uploaded yet, but it’s more or less the same.


First Day of Class

Today, I had Environmental Design 1 (ED1) and Korean.  The content covered in ED1 was interesting: the professor discussed the question of “Where are we?” by looking at the smallest scale (Wurster Hall) and zooming out to larger scales, the Earth.  There’s a sketchbook assignment every week and we have to read Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino. I’ve already started reading Invisible Cities which is a compilation of descriptions of cities (I think that are imagined) relating to memory, desire, signs, and trading.  


Day one in Korean and we just talked about the syllabus, so I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see how that goes. It’s a small class though of about 20, so I’m looking forward to it!


Tomorrow, my schedule tomorrow will be pretty hectic and will include my first history class…


To wrap things up for now, I have been having a great time so far! I can feel that I will learn a lot here at Berkeley. I will write more when things settle down.


Thank you very much!


Best regards,


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