Dylan Margolis, ’22, and Nihal Gulati, ’22, storm the football field after UC Berkeley's victory against Stanford at the annual "Big Game." (Photo courtesy of Margolis)

FRESHMAN FOCUS: Dylan Margolis, ’22, tackles tough Berkeley course load

Dylan Margolis, ’22, attends University of California, Berkeley, and has not declared a major, but intends to double major in computer science and business administration.

Q: Why did you choose to attend Berkeley?

A: Firstly, it’s a good school. There’s the prestige and all. But on a more specific note, I didn’t really want to go super far from home. If I ever want to come home, it’s a simple drive or train ride away, and I’m home in an hour or two.

It’s just that transit is so much easier when you go to a closer school. Berkeley was a great middle ground where I felt far enough away that I felt like I was able to have independence, but it wasn’t so far that it was a financial hassle.

Q: How are your classes so far?

A: Class is difficult; it’s rough out there. I’m getting a little more used to it, but it’s definitely a shift from Country Day in the sense of scale. It especially hits on the first day of classes because for some reason everyone believes they need to attend the first day of a class, but then no one shows up again.

I’m in classes with something like 1,900 people, and everybody shows up on the first day. The biggest classroom in Berkeley holds 700 or 800 students, but over 1,500 show up. The second class, maybe only 400 show up. But that first day of class, especially when you’re a first semester freshman, it’s like, “Holy moly, what am I walking into?” It feels like a concert or a sports game because there’s just so many people.

Q: Do you have a favorite class?

A: I have two answers. First, the film class because it’s film — of course it’s going to be awesome. We’re watching films from Italy and Taiwan from 1930 to 1970. It’s a lot of great picks and interesting stuff I’ve been wanting to see for a while. The professor is really awesome and kind. But it’s also not super challenging in the sense that compared to other courses, it was only two or three hours a week, so I could get the grade I wanted.

Or, it could be CS 61A. This comes with a grain of salt because I have a love-hate relationship with my computer science classes. 

CS 61A was super difficult for me, partially because I don’t have a strong background in coding, at least compared to other kids. That just made it so that I was a little behind; I was constantly trying to catch up. To be honest, I didn’t. I did not get the grade I wanted to get. That doesn’t mean it’s over for me on my computer science journey. But it’s super challenging, which is great. I want to be challenged — I feel like life is going to be boring if I sit there every day and do something that’s not challenging.

Q: What has been your most memorable experience in college so far?

A: Don’t get me wrong, finals are rough. At least for me, it’s very difficult. 

However, one thing I really had a good time with is that whenever I go into a midterm or final there’s like 10 minutes where everyone is sort of chatting. We don’t want to get into each other’s heads to compete for the curve; at this point, we’re all just praying to do well.

There’s this sort of fun conversation that everyone has, at least in all of my finals, where we’re all hoping it goes well, and we know it’s going to be rough. We’re all just sharing this moment and I think it’s very fun. 

I think that, and then they give me the final, and I’m like, “What language is this in? It’s supposed to be in English and I don’t recognize any of it.”

Q: How has the food been at Berkeley? Do you miss home-cooked meals? 

A: I eat at the dining hall like three meals a day. Once in a blue moon, I go out to eat. My rule is that during finals week or before a midterm, I can go out to eat as much as I want. It makes the week feel a little bit better; it’s a reward. Otherwise I just go to the same dining hall.

Sometimes it’s not great, but it could be a whole lot worse. It’s edible most of the time. There’s definitely bad days where I don’t want anything there, and I just make myself a little salad. There’s definitely ups and downs.

Q: How do you handle stress and maintain mental health?

A: What’s that? Let me give you an acronym: LTLTG. Learn to love the grind. Someone said that to me a long time ago. For the classes I’m taking, if I didn’t study a fair bit, I would be done. If I didn’t enjoy my studying, or at least find something interesting in it, I don’t know how I would have been able to do it.

But when I started to LTLTG, I found a passion for studying and getting that stuff ingrained in my brain — feeling that adrenaline when you work hard on a question and get it right before you look up the answer. If you don’t learn to love that, you’re walking up an uphill river with the water just gushing down.

Q: Do you have any advice for the class of 2023?

A: Give it your all. Don’t get me wrong, it gets rough during finals week or right before that midterm. Do you know what’s rougher than studying for it?

Getting your midterm back and having it be 20% lower than you wanted it to be. That’s what’s rough. So really give it your all because even though the assignments may be longer, harder or different than high school, a lot of times there aren’t as many. If you mess up on one, you’re done. It’s super easy to do that if you let it slip, if you get tired or a little bit out of it.

At the end of the day, just give it your all because it feels amazing when you get that grade back and you’re above the curve. Hard to have a better feeling than that.

— By Saheb Gulati

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