Skip to content

Life at UC Berkeley – A Day in the Life of a Cal Bear

January 14, 2013

by Tatum Wheeler (Dublin High School Class of 2012 and University of California, Berkeley freshman)

Dublin High School Class of 2012 Student Body President Tatum Wheeler

The application process was over and my decision was final: UC Berkeley would be my educational home for the next four years. Little known secret: Berkeley was not my dream school. Having grown up in the Bay Area, UC Berkeley was not even on my radar; I had hopes of going somewhere on the East Coast, although fate said otherwise. I had not even toured Berkeley until I was accepted and as many had said before, it was really my tour guide who helped me fall in love with the campus. Looking back, although it was not initially my dream school, UC Berkeley has become my dream school. Dublin High School’s counseling staff is always saying you will get into the school you were meant to go to and although that may not be what you want to hear amidst stressful applications and letters of recommendation, it really is true.

Cal Women's Crew Team

Cal Women’s Crew Team

The day had come. I had said my goodbyes, had decorated my room and I was on my own. During that first month, I joined the Cal Women’s Crew team as a coxswain, something I had never done before college. Though walking onto a team is atypical of the college experience, it shows just how many new opportunities are available in college. Through AP credit from the AP’s I took, I was also able to receive 24 units (over a semester’s worth of work) and fulfill some general requirements. Throughout the first semester, I also learned some of the nuances of Berkeley: the inconsistent weather, Berkeley time, and the Mainstacks system. I also developed a daily schedule, which although no one can ever predict a day in college, is generally as follows:

  • Tatum Wheeler UC Berkeley - Moving In6:00 am: Wake up and make the walk across the hall to the co-ed bathroom. Brush teeth, wash face. Go back to room and get layers on trying as hard as possible not to wake up roommate.
  • 6:30 am: Vans arrive for morning practice at Oakland Estuary.  I never tire of waking up and seeing the beautiful Bay.
  • 9:00 am: Practice ends. Run from van onto campus, pick up breakfast, and shuffle into 9:10 am Math discussion. During Math discussion, you go over homework and concepts with a graduate student instructor (some schools call them TA’s, at Berkeley they’re called GSI’s). I also spent 10 hours with my GSI during dead week in preparation for the final exam.
  • 10:10 – 11:00 am: Math lecture. Busy myself writing notes only to realize yet again all we are doing is proving a formula, which we will not be tested on.
  • 11:00am – 12:00 pm: English lecture. I passed out of one of my English requirements with Mrs. MacDonald’s AP Lang course, but did not pass out of the other. However, the skills I learned in both AP Lang and AP Lit help me immensely in our current assignment, analyzing the themes of monstrosity found in the television series Dexter, as well as the strict enforcement of MLA, which is expected to be known in college.
  • 12:00-1:00 pm: Lunch break. Head to Qualcomm Café for a delicious wrap and call mom in the meantime to check in.
  • 1:00-2:00 pm: The Language and Politics of Southern Africa seminar, the closest you will find to Rubio-esque teaching in college [referring to Dublin High School teacher Ron Rubio]. A seminar is a smaller class open to freshman and sophomores that is generally pass / no pass, only one or two units, taught by professors and covering a wide variety of topics. It is a great way to explore an interest and get credit, without the intensity of a breadth course.
  • Tatum Wheeler and Joe Nealon Riding the Bus to the UC Berkeley Campus2:00 pm: Catch the bus back to my dorm and run into ’11-12 ASB Vice President and best friend, Joe Nealon. Take a short break to de-stress from a long day of class. As Mr. Rubio says, you are more likely to attend classes in the morning then in the afternoon, where it is much easier to become too busy to go to class. Some choose to schedule their classes in blocks at a time, others with breaks in between, but in college there is no set schedule, it is all about what works for you.
  • 2:30-3:00 pm: Meet with my next-door neighbor to discuss argument options for this week’s Political Science paper. This collaboration time proved to be effective all semester for clarification of concepts mentioned in class and was immensely helpful in preparing for the final exam.
  • 3:00-5:30 pm: Head to the study lounge found on the floor above, a quiet space to finish math homework, read for English, and listen to Spotify.
  • 5:30 pm: Head back to room and freshen up for dinner with friends.
  • 6:00 pm: Meet everyone for dinner in our dorm’s dining commons. Yes, the food gets old fast and you appreciate home meals much more, but if you tell yourself it isn’t that bad, then you trick yourself into thinking it really isn’t.
  • Dublin High School College Freshman Stay Connected via Oovoo7:00 pm: Head back to room. Oovoo session with Rebecca Beasley and Jaime LeQuin; even though in three separate states, we still manage to find ways to keep in touch.
  • 7:40 pm: Finish gabbing and return to annotate political science reading.
  • 9:00 pm: Get ready for bed. Lay clothes and organize backpack for the next morning. Brush teeth, wash face in the holy grail of the college experience, the communal co-ed bathroom. If this will be you next semester, you will survive, so long as you are armed with a robe, shower shoes, and an open mind.
  • 9:30 pm: Watch a tv show on my laptop and go to sleep. You can survive college without Netflix, but if you have the option, it is a great resource for catching up on your favorite shows.
  • 10:00 pm: Asleep!

Although every day presents new opportunities, that sums up a day in the life of Tatum Wheeler at UC Berkeley. Before I go though, I wanted to impart some advice, some things I wish I had known before I left for college.

Advice to students:

You will be fine.  Thinking of college is scary and thrilling, you feel like you’re so ready to leave one moment and then another you just want to stay home and never grow up. Enjoy the fun that college offers. Go to the football games, make new friends everywhere you go and attend the club fairs at the beginning of the year. Remember you will stay friends with people from high school too, so long as you make an effort, which does not take much with Facebook, Skype, Twitter, e-mail, cell phones, and mail (everyone likes to receive mail in college). Take advantage of the college experience, but remember how blessed you are to have this opportunity. Make your family proud and strive your hardest in your classes. Check out your on campus learning center for tutoring and academic resources. There are so many resources available in college; it’s usually just a matter of navigating the system. Make an effort to go to class and ask for help, it will pay off in the end. Also, pack early. Waiting until 2 am the night before you are supposed to leave will only make you grumpy the next day. But overall remember that you will be fine.

Advice to parents:

Your son / daughter will be fine. Do help them with the moving process, check in with them and send the occasional care package. It doesn’t have to be large, just a simple note with their favorite magazine will make them happy. In just a few months they will be home with you for the holidays for an entire month. Remember that. Also, your student’s laptop soon becomes their home office, television, communication device, boombox, event planner, and a whole host of other things. Take the time to invest in a good one. If you live close to their school, let them create their own amount of distance, so that they still feel they are getting the college experience. If you live far, create some proximity; a scheduled weekly Skype session perhaps. Overall, remember that they still need you, just in a different way. And both you and them will be fine.

Feel free to contact me anytime with questions about the college transition, life as a Bear, or anything at all at  I wish you the best of luck with the college process and remember above all, you will go where you’re meant to, no matter what you initially thought that was.

Happy New Year and Go Bears!

At the Dublin High School 2012 Senior Awards Night Tatum was recognized several times including the Jostens Senior of the Year, Dublin Lions Club Student of the Month (September) and Student of the Year, National Daughters of the American Revolution Good Citizen award, Dublin High School Alumni Scholarship, Cabrillo Civics Club of CA, Inc. Scholarship, the GAEL Achievement Award for History, was named a California Scholarship Federation Life Member, was awarded the President’s Gold Award for Educational Excellence and earned Dublin High School’s Advanced Scholar Diploma. Tatum was also the Dublin High School ASB President.

Other articles in the Life in College series:

Tatum Wheeler and Cousin at the UC Berkeley Memorial Stadium

Football Game with my cousin at beautiful Memorial Stadium

Tatum Wheeler - Dublin High Engineering Academy Open House Starring MythBusters

Tatum Wheeler – Dublin High Engineering Academy Open House Starring MythBusters


Tatum Wheeler with Dublin High School Classmate Lauren Koa

Tatum Wheeler with Dublin High School Classmate Lauren Koa


Tatum Wheeler (right) with Friends

Tatum Wheeler (right) with Friends at a Local Berkeley Restaurant