When it comes time to make the decision about the college they want to attend, the success and fulfillment of our alums attests to the philosophy that college is a match to be made, not a prize to be won. With a wide range of schools to select from, BC alums have the option to pick the one that fits them best, from large universities to small liberal arts colleges, from the East Coast to the West Coast and even abroad.
Every month, we’ll be catching up with a recent alum still in college to learn more about what led them to their choice, how they have dealt with school year disruptions during COVID-19, and how their time at Berkeley Carroll prepared them for their life Beyond BC!
Gabrielle Guarna '18, Vanderbilt University, Studying Cinema & Media Arts and Environmental Science
What year are you in college?
I’m a junior.
When you were in the Upper School, what was the most important factor to you as you went through the college selection process?
I wanted a school that was going to emphasize community as much as Berkeley Carroll does. Growing up in the tight knit world of BC taught me to value the strong relationships you can build with peers and faculty, and that was not something I wanted to give up. While I was originally looking at smaller schools for this purpose, I found that Vanderbilt was a school with high academic rigor that also focused on building strong community, forging relationships with professors, and providing mentorship in many different areas of campus — especially during the first year. I took a bit of a leap of faith choosing Vanderbilt as it was so different from what I knew, but after feeling the friendliness and warmth of everyone around me, and seeing the strong community that Vanderbilt worked so hard to help build, I felt sure I had made the right decision.
How do you think BC best prepared you for college?
While BC prepared me for college in more ways than I can count, one aspect that stands out is strong writing skills. The importance Berkeley Carroll placed on writing from the very beginning helped me learn to think critically and write effectively. When I got to college I was preparing for a learning curve with my writing, but soon realized I was already writing at a level that was satisfactory to my professors and somewhat above my peers. What I began to really appreciate after coming to college was the importance of writing in every facet of academia — it is easy to think of writing as specific to the humanities when you’re in high school, but I’ve come to realize the importance of good writing skills for STEM fields as well. While I know there is still so much to learn and many ways to improve my writing, I am so appreciative of the strong writing base I gained at Berkeley Carroll upon which I can continue to build throughout college.
Are you still pursuing passions you discovered at BC, and have you discovered any new ones?
At Berkeley Carroll I played on the soccer and softball teams and participated in theater and in music. At college, I have continued some of these activities mostly on my own or with friends, like pickup games of soccer or playing music in my dorm, and saved new activities for other organizations and councils that I have found since coming to college. One interest I have gained is a passion for the ocean, the environment, and environmental justice and equity. This new interest has directed much of what I have done in college including my major, my participation as an observer at the UN Climate Conference in 2019, and my involvement with a fossil fuel divestment campaign.
Given the COVID-19 pandemic, this has been a particularly challenging year, and probably a lot different than you expected. Have there been moments that you look back on that have made you more resilient?
After a year of constant changes, challenges, and uncertainties, I have learned to accept things as they come and manage changes with patience and composure. “Covid College” (as my professor calls it) was definitely an unexpected road bump, but challenged me to be creative in the ways I interact with my peers and my studies. Having two majors that are very hands on, I had to be creative in my filmmaking and in my scientific learning experience. Being involved on the executive board of two different organizations, I had to find fun ways to engage people, especially younger students who might be struggling to find their way given the circumstances. These are skills that will continue to serve me in life, and give me some hope for the future that even throughout hardships we can still find ways to share and grow.
What advice would you give a current BC student as they are thinking about college?
Keep an open mind! I would never have guessed I would be where I am today because I thought I wanted something completely different than Vanderbilt. I was pushed out of my comfort zone by applying and eventually attending this school, but I am so happy I ended up here. Be open to new possibilities and opportunities and allow yourself to explore all different kinds of pathways — you might surprise yourself with what you find. Also, make the best of your time at Berkeley Carroll — there’s nothing like it!
Did you have a particular experience you remember from your time at BC that has continued to have an impact on you?
One aspect of Berkeley Carroll that impacted me was my Spring Intensive trip to India during my sophomore year. This trip was the first time I was really taken out of my comfort zone. It whet my appetite for adventure and set me on a path to challenge myself and explore life’s opportunities more. It allowed me to make new friends within the BC community, experience a culture and country in a way I never could have without this program, and gain life experiences that allowed me to learn and grow. These are memories I will hold with me forever!