The following is North alumnus Ashwin Bindra’s response to our questions about his college decision process, the student life and culture at Berkeley, and more.

Ashwin (1)

Bindra graduated North in 2019. 

Originally, when I applied, I didn’t know I was going to end up at Cal—I just knew it was a great school and it was good in some of the programs in which I was interested. The school’s far away, however, so I never really seriously considered it until after I was accepted. Once I got in, I started to consider it more.

What drove me to choose Cal and eventually fall in love with the school was the fact that it is so strong in so many different programs, so I knew that if I eventually decided that I wasn’t interested in what I originally was going to study in college, I would have a ton of different opportunities to excel in the various programs. 

Cal is a great school for computer science, but it is also very strong in other subjects such as psychology, statistics, mathematics, business―subjects in which I may be interested. With its diverse strengths, Cal would enable me to pick up another major, and/or take classes that are interesting and strong in their respective field(s).  

I really do love Berkeley. For me, Cal has just the perfect balance for who I am as a person. I love the balance between classes and social life. There is a lot of hard work that you have to do—the academics are not easy—but it is a really fun school to attend.


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I’ve gotten to meet some really interesting people from diverse backgrounds, as well as explore the Bay Area, which I think is super unique. There are a ton of different opportunities to go hiking and just be outdoors—more than I think I would have on the East Coast⁠—as well as to explore the rest of California. 

I don’t really get homesick, in terms of being in WW-P—not because I disliked it⁠—I just find that I’m fitting in really well here at Cal. I do miss my family and my parents. Luckily, I have been able to visit them at least once or twice a semester. It has never really been too difficult in that regard, especially because I have family here in California.      

I do miss the quick access that I used to have to my friends. On the West Coast, there aren’t as many North alumni. Not too many of my friends are over here. I also miss some of the food. The West Coast doesn’t have Wawa or hoagies. It may seem silly, but it is something I really do miss. 

I think any student that goes to Cal will tell you that the hardest part is the classes. They’re very rigorous and it is very challenging, but in the same sense, the classes are very rewarding. You have to put in a lot of work, study really hard. It is by no means an easy thing to do, but when you’re able to succeed, and get the grade you want, or achieve whatever defines your success, it’s really rewarding.


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My favorite thing about Berkeley is the size of the school. It’s a pretty big school; we have around 31,000 undergraduate students, and at first that seemed very daunting to me, but once you start to join clubs and enter different communities, you’ll be able to find your own friend groups in different areas. 

One of the coolest parts of attending Cal is that whenever I am walking on campus I run into one or two people I know that I can say hi to⁠—which is something I really value. Even though it is a really big school, joining clubs and surrounding yourself with friends who want to see you succeed makes it feel smaller and more like a home.  

The culture here at surface level seems cutthroat. People make Cal out to be this super competitive school where everyone is out to get each other, where classes are on a curve so when your friend is succeeding you’re not. But I think that couldn’t be farther from the truth. It’s competitive, and a tough school, but I haven’t experienced any problem in terms of being able to collaborate or study with other people. 

You’ll hear horror stories of people taking notes from other people at different schools, but I’ve never found that to be the case at Berkeley. In reality, here, it’s more about lifting up the people around you and being lifted up by the people around you, rather than pushing down the people around you to succeed. It’s great that Berkeley can have a competitive and yet not toxic environment.


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