Letters to a transfer student: Nseke Ngilbus

“You thought to yourself that hard work truly pays off; it is not just a cliché.”

Recent Fellowship alum Nseke Ngilbus of the 2019–20 cohort and now Honors Fellow 2020–2021 shares a letter addressed to his younger self right after he was admitted to Berkeley as a transfer student one year ago. He shares the feelings of happiness and determination he had upon acceptance, the uncertainties when he first heard about the Fellowship, and the community and design skills he gained through the program.


At this time last year, you had just been accepted to UC Berkeley. A wave of emotions flooded you, remembering how you were rejected from UC Berkeley and UCLA the previous year. You thought to yourself, “Hard work truly pays off; it is not just a cliché.” Now, you were at UC Berkeley developing your own major of human-centered design. Yet, an incredible amount of hard work would still be necessary to bring your goals to fruition.

Randomly, amongst the 235 new emails in your inbox, you opened an exciting email about a program called the Fung Fellowship. It turns out that this “Fung” program is based on human-centered design…“It must be destiny,” you thought. Never mind, you never believed in that, and you wouldn’t start now. However, you did complete and submit the online link.

You were a bit wary, thinking that you would be the only transfer and black student in the class. UC Berkeley does only have a 2% black population. To your pleasant surprise, you were placed on a team with another black transfer student. You developed a bond with him outside of class, and you frequented the RSF basketball courts together. (With you obviously winning most of the games.)

In class, you were able to explore advanced design concepts and actually implement them. With each class you felt your knowledge expand, and you were getting closer to reaching your goals of being a better designer. There was also the added benefit of bouncing your ideas off your classmates, and this accelerated your growth. You found amazing people to facilitate your development in Jaspal, Mariela, and Adrienne — this fellowship was proving itself to be worth it.

Then, there was the Fung Fellowship bonding retreat, which was something you never pictured yourself doing because you thought those activities were corny. You held hands in a circle, climbed a tree, and played Marco Polo — it actually was very corny. But you wouldn’t mind doing it again next year. You did not realize that occasionally you need a break from the daily grind, and sometimes doing something silly is the break you need.

Nseke, if I had to give you advice — and you should listen because I am a four times more knowledgeable you — enjoy the Fung Fellowship. This will be a place to learn, make friends, and grow past your comfort zone.

Nseke from 2020

About the Author

First-year Fellow
Nseke Ngilbus
Year: Junior
Major: American Studies
Hometown: Oakland, CA
Transferred from:
Berkeley City College

Connect with Nseke.

Applications for the Fung Fellowship are now open for the UC Berkeley transfer class of 2022 until July 31, 2021.

Learn more about the Fung Fellowship at fungfellows.berkeley.edu.

The Fung Fellowship at UC Berkeley is shaping the next generation of health, conservation, and technology leaders for a better world. 🌱