Ever since dad drove the family station wagon along behind a protest march to "save" People's Park, I have wanted to attend UC Berkeley. At the time my understanding of college didn't extend very far beyond the beauty of the campus. When I was 13, and going through my purple-haired rebellion phase, I figured that Berkeley (or maybe just Telegraph Avenue) would be a great place for me to expand my hair color options and worldly awareness. It wasn't until my sophomore year of high school that I started factoring in Cal's academic excellence.

During the summer before my senior year I finally found a way to convince my parents (who were reluctant to commit to sending me any farther away than the local community college) that they should allow me to attend the school of my dreams. Scott Simon, of National Public Radio's Weekend Edition Saturday personally recommended that I go to Cal while my father was in the room. That was all the convincing my family and I needed. Thank goodness for celebrity intervention.

When working on my application and personal statement essay, I enlisted the help of everyone I could find: the career center aides, counselor, Dad (for his ability to write checks), Mom (for spelling), English teachers and my AP Biology teacher. After hours of writing, rewriting, stressing and talking to every wise elder type I could find, it was finally finished. I stuffed my application into an envelope and nervously entrusted it to the U.S. postal system.

After four months of eager anticipation and multiple daily trips to the mailbox, I finally got a letter in the mail from Cal. I was afraid to open the envelope, especially since it showed up in my mailbox on April Fools' Day. This was the "big one." I had only applied to UC Berkeley and a "thanks, but no thanks" would mean two more years at the local community college. When I read the words "Congratulations! I'm pleased to offer you admission to the University of California, Berkeley," I felt my eyes start to water with joy. Needless to say I was pretty happy and seriously relieved to get accepted.

Stepping foot on campus for the first time, as an actual Berkeley student, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of tranquility. During Welcome Week I spent the hours from sunup to sundown just wandering around and marveling at my surroundings. I was amazed by all the different credit card companies and banks literally begging me to choose them as my creditor. Education, parental freedom and credit: what more could a girl on the cusp of the millennium ask for?

My first week of classes at Berkeley was great. Sure, when Friday rolled around I was exhausted, but it felt good. For the first time in my educational career the work load challenged me and I eagerly anticipated a weekend of reading text books.

Berkeley is an amazing environment for learning and every day I feel fortunate to be here and even more grateful that such a place exists. Everyone on campus is so intelligent that I feel like I'm learning nearly as much from the students as from the staff.

Experiences and conversations with other members of the Class of 2000 make me see the potential for an amazing future. There isn't a single student who doesn't plan to be a success when they "grow up." It's just a matter of time before we become campus leaders and prominent members of society.

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