Posted On: Monday, July 21 09:00 AM, by Marissa Vessels
Marissa Vessels Omega/UC Berkeley
Of all the things I did during my time at Cal, for me it somehow always circles back to Theta’s endless support and empowerment.
In May, I walked across the stage at my political science department’s commencement ceremony, the concluding step in officially completing my undergraduate education. Here I am, a few months later, and it still hasn’t “hit me” that my four years at the University of California Berkeley are over.
I can’t say that it seems like “just yesterday” that I was arriving at Cal, moving into my dorm room, and taking my first college courses because, to be honest, freshman year seems like an eternity ago. My first year dragged on, I didn’t do particularly well in my classes, I didn’t meet my college BFFs, and I didn’t really get involved in any of the unique and incredible things that Berkeley had to offer me. I remember feeling lost, like I wasn’t good enough, and – truthfully – quite lonely.
During the summer between my first and second year, I signed up for sorority recruitment. After what seemed like a long and grueling (but honestly, looking back, not that bad) process, I found a home at the Omega chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta. That’s where my Berkeley story really began.
Marissa with the Omega chapter graduates.
Being a Theta gave me a community that stood by me and supported me through some of the most challenging times of my college career. It provided me with the intense time management skills to be able to juggle more than 10 extracurricular activities plus leadership positions, 21 units, and a healthy social life. It gave me sisters who empowered me to reach my academic and professional goals, even when I felt like things had gotten out of control. It gave me a system of supportive friends who were there to volunteer for the events I put on, who gave me a bed to sleep in when I didn’t want to go back to my uncomfortable apartment environment, who trusted me to help manage chapter events, and who were there for me during some of the most emotionally trying times of my young adult life. In short: Theta gave my college life substance.
It is so easy to glide through your college years, focusing only on what you came there to do: get an education. At Berkeley, your education is really so much more than simply what you learn within the confines of your lecture halls, late nights in Main Stacks, and endless Caffe Strada americanos. At Cal, your education is about how you apply what you’re learning, how you give back to the community as more than a transitive member, and the ideas, relationships, and belief systems that you build during your time there. Without the support that Theta gave me, I never would have found the courage to participate in our student government, to really kickstart the work of my nonprofit organization, and to find my voice hidden deep within the shy, unsure, and uncritical freshman-year me.
Although I’m not completely sure what’s to come for me in the coming years, I’m confident that, with my critical Berkeley education and my Theta support system, I will be ready for whatever life has in store.
Overall, it would take days, probably months, for me to really articulate what college has meant to me and the value it has added to my life, but for now, I’ll end this with the most important lesson of all: Go Bears, Go Greek, and Go Theta!
Marissa Vessels, Omega/UC Berkeley, graduated with a bachelor's degree in political science and public policy.