Graduating senior and Los Angeles native Chioma talks about her time at Berkeley, her favorite professors and offers advice to new students.
What is your major, and why did you choose it?
Chioma: I came in as pre-med and I didn’t like it, so I was just taking classes trying to figure out what I liked. I took Intro to Sociocultural Anthropology with Professor Stanley H. Brandes and I kind of fell in love with anthropology. With anthropology, a lot of people think you’re either gonna be an archeologist or a teacher — I don’t want to do either of those. I’m thinking of going into marketing, and then getting my masters in applied anthropology and start working in user research on web design.
What is one of the best experiences you had studying anthropology?
Chioma: I took an anthropology course called American Material Culture and I had to go to a cemetery and look for people who had died in 1880 and look at the style of their tombstone. After maybe an hour of searching in the cemetery, I found an enclave of people and analyzed the style of the material culture from that time based on their tombstones and what was written on them. I had never done anything like that before. It was very eye-opening, and actually very interesting.
Who are your favorite professors?
Chioma: I’ve had a lot of favorites, it’s really hard to pinpoint them. I would say Professor Rosemary Joyce in the Anthropology department, is my all time favorite maybe because she has a very unconventional way of teaching, and I actually thrived in her class. I got an A+ in her class and it’s supposed to be one of the hardest anthropology classes. I really enjoyed it because she has us engage with what we’re doing instead of just reading and memorizing stuff and writing it down just to forget about it. She was very engaging and very funny. She’s really into archeology, and I hate archeology, but she’s a really awesome professor.
What do you do outside of classes and academics?
Chioma: I’m pretty involved in the Black community on campus. I actually got involved the moment I got here, not even because I was searching for it but because they found me. I was part of the African American Theme Program (AATP) floor, so I lived on that floor my whole freshman year. I would kind of follow the upperclassmen and see what was going on around campus.
This was the first time I had been away from my family so that six hour difference really took a toll on me and I was really homesick for the first two years. But the theme program was very supportive. Living on the floor and coming home and seeing people who looked like me and who have the same experiences as me — it was a lot of fun and the more I stayed around the Black community, the more comfortable I got. It really helped me grow as a person to feel comfortable around different communities on campus.
How did you adjust to being far from your Los Angeles home?
Chioma: I called my parents every day. I had no family up here, so it took a long time for me to adjust. I went home every break, and every time I got a chance to buy a cheap ticket. But I think as I got older I started to enjoy the fact that I was an adult and that being up here awarded me opportunities that come with being an adult.
I still call my parents every day.
How have you changed since being a new student at Berkeley?
Chioma: I’ve definitely grown up. I think when I was a freshman I wanted to please everyone else. Now I put myself first. I think I’ve definitely become more responsible, especially when it comes to deadlines and keeping up with my work because if I don’t do well, it’s on me and I can’t blame anyone but me.
What advice would you give to incoming or prospective students?
Chioma: I would say that, yes, Berkeley is a great school, but do not be afraid to fail. In order to succeed, you’re going to fail. High school doesn’t always prepare you for what’s to come in college and you have to be okay with that. Sometimes you have to be okay with giving up a homework assignment so you can sleep. I actually was very terrified coming here, but I realized that time management is your best and your worst friend. If you learn how to manage your, time you’ll be okay. If you’re scared about the curriculum, don’t be! The professors are wonderful. They pay attention to your needs.
Also, be very conscious of who you are and who you hang out with. Know that the friends that you make today may not be your friends when you graduate. There are so many things that you will learn, but you have to give yourself time to learn them. Knowing what you like in high school is not the same as knowing what you like in college. I’ve seen freshmen come in saying that they’re going to be nuclear physicists, only to find out that they really hate physics. And it’s okay — you will change, your tastes will change.
How has being a Berkeley student shaped you?
Chioma: Berkeley really has made me care a lot more about politics and race and religion, and all the things that I kind of ignored and didn’t wanna talk about. It opened my eyes to different kinds of people. Not every educated person is a nice or sociable one. It taught me a lot about community. I think going into the workforce, I will always carry what I’ve learned at Berkeley elsewhere, especially when it comes to talking to people from different communities and trying to relate to people.
What are your plans for after graduation?
Chioma: My hope is to work at a marketing firm for a couple of years before heading to grad school.
Interview by Sarah Bellal