Find Community through Connect@Cal

January 4, 2022

Group of students gathered on stadium field, at night, during Golden Bear OrientationHow do you meet other students at Cal?

We spoke with Johnny Nguyen, Cal undergrad and co-founder of Connect@Cal, to learn more about how a click of a button can help you find your people.

How can I find community through Connect@Cal?

Connect@Cal is an easy campus navigation resource where students can ask questions online through a click of a button. A group of volunteers investigates resources on campus and sends the student relevant links. We answer questions about anything related to Berkeley resources as long as it's non-crisis. Usually it's really open-ended questions like, "I'm really interested in Physics research opportunities" or "I'm interested in film and poetry. Are there any clubs like that on campus?" Our volunteers will respond with a bunch of links and descriptions about how it's relevant to the student's question. We've built an internal database to help respond to students and may reach out to an adviser if we find something harder to solve. While not all of the questions we get have to do with community-finding, we can definitely help with that. We connect students with campus orgs, centers, and other opportunities where they can meet people who can relate to their interests or identities. 

What if I don't want to join a student org? 

One day, a student sent us a case asking, "How do you meet people without joining a club?" And the volunteers kind of looked at each other like, "...I don't know! How do you meet people without joining a club?" We thought about commuter students and students who may not have connected with a GBO group (especially during the pandemic) and how it might be hard for them to casually meet friends. We wanted to create a really simple way to meet other students. So, we started Bear Buddies, which is the second button on the Connect@Cal website. With Bear Buddies, you can choose to do a random match with another Cal student or get matched based on preferences such as major, identity, year in school. You submit a Google form and just share information you want to share. 

Since our launch in Spring 2020, we've matched about 300-400 students. Some students come back to get matched with more people. When we last looked at our data, about 50% of those who got matched were first generation college students and nearly 25% identified as LGBTQ and wanted to get matched with someone else who was LGBTQ-identified. 

What do you wish students knew about Connect@Cal and Bear Buddies? 

I'm a first generation college student and I found that so much of feeling like you belong at Berkeley is knowing people from your own high school or hometown that go to Cal. Finding that is really hard, especially when you're the only student in your high school class coming, or when you're the first person in your family coming, or if you just don't have the social capital to help you. We wanted to fill that gap. 

Berkeley is so big and Connect@Cal wants to be there for students who don't know where to start. There are so many great things happening at Berkeley and we really want to help people find them. I always tell our team that if we help one student find one thing, it makes everything we do worth it. It means so much when a student finds one opportunity or one friend they really like. 

Get connected

Visit, and try out Connect@Cal and Bear Buddies to start finding your own place in the Cal community. 

Connect@Cal was founded by undergraduate students Johnny Nguyen, Eric Cheng, and Ethan Chiu.

Back to Discover Opportunities and Connect on Campus

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