Shreya Aviri, Conservation + Tech ’23 (American Studies): “It’s okay to adapt.”
On learning from discomfort, spreading kindness, and figuring it out along the way
Shreya Aviri started off her time at UC Berkeley in a slump. Her first year of college was completely remote, forming a group of friends proved to be difficult, and the competitive nature of campus clubs got the best of her. Like many in her position, Shreya began to lose steam. It wasn’t until she pushed herself to pursue some of the endless — and slightly overwhelming in number — opportunities at Berkeley that things began to look up. One of those opportunities was the Fung Fellowship. Now the Alumni-Co Lead of the fellowship’s Student Leadership Team, Shreya is looking to make a positive impact not only on the environment but also on her peers.
This is her story.
Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself?
My name is Shreya and I’m currently a junior. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY for most of my life, but spent my formative years in Los Angeles, CA! My goal for this year is to cook more and try out new restaurants in the Bay Area. I want to be more adventurous!
What led you to apply and join the Fung Fellowship and why did you choose the Conservation + Tech Track?
In the application, I listed my preference for the Conservation + Tech Track of the Fung Fellowship as I was intrigued by the idea of exploring and problem-solving for a more sustainable future.
The track offers the perfect blend of innovation and conservation, allowing me to make a difference while also learning how to use technology as a tool to reach greater environmental sustainability.
Having little to no experience in sustainability, I wanted to use the Fung Fellowship as an opportunity to gain knowledge about the subject and explore ways to make a positive environmental impact. Additionally, considering the gravity of the climate crisis, I wanted to challenge myself to move past my discomfort and take a proactive stance.
I think this discomfort comes from a place of feeling burnt out, like I have no more empathy or energy to give, which is pretty strange because I don’t think I was that giving in the first place; it’s more that all the negative news I was absorbing just made me feel like, ‘What’s the point of anything? Any efforts for sustainability won’t matter because the problem is systemic.’ These were the thought patterns I had. I’m trying to move past it because I don’t want to use this as an excuse to not do anything.
What made you want to serve on the Fung Fellowship’s Student Leadership Team?
The boring answer is I figured I should try to insert myself into a leadership role, as Berkeley students tend to do, but I’m glad to have the opportunity to serve on the Fung Fellowship’s Leadership Team because I’m learning so much along the way.
I specifically had my eye on the alumni engagement role because a weakness of mine was my lack of networking skills, and this is something I wanted to directly confront.
I want to expand my network but also give my peers the opportunity to do the same. Everyone eats — that’s my philosophy.
What are your professional goals?
I’m still in the process of figuring this out. I know this is kind of a naive approach but I’ve always wanted to work at a company or within an industry that I’ve always thought was cool and exciting. But I’m kind of trying to unlearn that mindset.
I’ll be OK if I don’t work at some sexy entertainment or tech company because in most cases, those are the kind of companies that are hurting the world the most. If I could create my dream job, it would allow me to have total creative freedom while also leveraging data in a way that I feel comfortable with. Instead of seeing data as a foe and something that determines the fate of everything, I would embrace it and use it to create something impactful and meaningful.
What are some of your hobbies/passions?
There’s a Dance Dance Revolution machine in the MLK building, and I got really into it last semester. I met a lot of cool people through this random outdated arcade game that I would not have met otherwise. So many of my nights have been spent bent over a table in the ground floor of MLK, with some hyperactive Japanese techno Vocaloid song playing in the background.
I also got into kickboxing recently because of Berkeley so shout to the recreational student organizations on campus! It’s nice to have a friendly space that’s uncontaminated by competition or extensive applications.
My other hobbies mostly revolve around media consumption: watching shows, movies, and anime and reading mangas/manhwas and webtoons.
I can’t say they have much relevance to my professional goals. While I acknowledge that there are avenues for work and hobbies to intersect, I’m OK with my interests just being interests. I’m a big believer in work-life balance.
Is there something you are currently working on/interested in that you would like to share?
Let me plug my favorite organization on campus: Connect@Cal.
Life at Berkeley can be really overwhelming and stressful because there is so much going on.
Connect@Cal is kind of like an informational helpdesk that helps to mitigate that and connect you directly to opportunities. You send us your inquiry through a Google form — it can be about anything from classes to internships to tutoring to finding friends — and we’ll send you an email back with a list of resources.
We’ve had kind of a slow start this year but I’m really passionate about this organization because I want Berkeley to be less scary for other people. If you’re interested in joining us, please let me know! We have a space for everyone, and we’re not competitive or cutthroat by any stretch of the imagination.
You talk about making Berkeley less scary for other people. What has your experience at Berkeley been like thus far?
My experience at Berkeley has been a mixed bag. I think a lot of my insecurity comes from how my first year was completely remote. I spent too much of my sophomore year fixating on how I didn’t have an established friend group, and rejection from clubs alongside my own decreasing motivation led to me in kind of a slump. But I made an effort to get out more and go to events I usually wouldn’t have junior year and it honestly helped — the act of pushing myself.
I think Berkeley can be scary for people because it’s a little too limitless, a little too boundless. On the surface it’s bubbling with opportunities but that’s sort of super overwhelming to get thrown into. And you start to take any sign of rejection as a personal failure, which breaks my heart a little.
I think everyone is truly capable of achieving their goals, but sometimes our personal lives and mental health get in the way and I think it’s okay to adapt and change based on that.
I don’t know if I can single handedly make Berkeley less scary for other people, but I want to be as kind as I can to my friends and the people around me, so they can be kind to themselves.
What kind of impact do you want to have on the world?
To be honest, I’m OK with having no impact on the world. I just want to leave the world a better place than I found it, and to me that’s being kind to people. So that’s what I aim to do.
Fun fact or favorite quote (or both):
Stigler’s law of eponymy, proposed by University of Chicago statistics professor, states that no scientific discovery is named after its original discoverer. Statistician Stephen Stigler coined this law in a 1980 festschrift honoring sociologist Robert K. Merton, who had remarked that original discoverers never seem to get credit. Stigler playfully appropriated the rule, ensuring that Stigler’s law would be self-referential.