Student Spotlight: Micaela Berry ’22

If you’ve ever stopped by the Office of Internships & Career Development, it’s likely that one of the first friendly voices you hear is Micaela’s! She’s a senior who works on the Internships side of our office; she is majoring in Elementary Education and will graduate in December 2022 after a semester of student teaching. When asked about her decision to attend Berea College, Micaela explained that it took care of the stress she was dealing with to pay for school. She also explained that she learned about Berea College and was encouraged to apply thanks to a friend on staff. Micaela applied about three weeks before the deadline, and her admissions decision letter arrived one day while she was at work.

“My mom called the store [I worked at] and she was like ‘Mici, there’s a letter from Berea. Can I open it?’ and I said ‘Yes, send me a picture!’ I waited till I got the text and from then I knew that Berea was the place for me. I was excited about the other schools, but when I got the one from Berea, there was just a different level of excitement and peace. I’d never even been here, but I just knew this was it.”

In the fall of her freshman year, Micaela was placed in the introductory course to the Education Studies major. EDS 150 is a class in which students are assigned to go into local schools and observe different grade levels. While Micaela was only exploring this major at the time, she went into the course considering high school (English), but after her hours in a few upper-grade classrooms, she wasn’t too sure anymore; she was later placed in an elementary classroom where her decision to major in Elementary Education was revealed and sealed.

“I was going to try to double major [with Child & Family Studies] but it was just not going to work. So, then I thought of doing the minor, but there were components I didn’t really care for because [for me] it was more about learning about people. Then, Dr. Mecham gave me some advice: ‘Why waste your time on the minor, when you can just take the classes you care about?’ So, I dropped the minor and took classes the education department doesn’t cover!”

That’s really interesting— I also think it’s pretty cool how you decided to take classes that aren’t required, but that you took simply because you wanted to.

“Right! It’s going to serve me in the future anyway even if I don’t stay a teacher. I’m definitely going to keep working with people and children, like with the kids’ ministry at church where [there’s] all sorts of ages. So, the understandings of like child development [and] psychology serve me well for that. Plus, it’s just fun and I love those classes!”

So, how has your labor position at the Internships & Career Development Office impacted you?

“I love this job— a big thing I’ve realized is I really enjoy the work and I am passionate about how we serve people. But even if I didn’t care, just having a great team to work with makes the job wonderful; it’s always been a welcoming place and this office has felt like family. I can be myself telling my silly jokes, making memes, and helping students.”

Micaela works with students to help them navigate the process of preparing for internships— she expresses how fulfilling it is to be able to partner with students and help them with their summer experiences by answering questions or by referring them to different resources.

“It’s just so cool how many opportunities Berea provides for students ([like resources at the Office of Internships or Career Development or the Center for International Education]) and so to even be a tiny piece of that and see students find success and achieve dreams is so rewarding.”

Micaela, would you care to share your plans after graduating?

“I have accepted a position at a preschool in China where I will be teaching English to students and I’m just so excited about that because 1.) I never thought I was going to end up doing preschool and 2.) I never thought I was going to be in China! [When] this opportunity came around, I thought I’d be an idiot to not at least entertain the process when lo and behold, they offered me the job and are willing to wait ‘til I graduate. This semester I took an additional education class about teaching and learning foreign languages; I did it thinking I might want to teach ESL in the states at some point, but now it’s super relevant and it’s given me good knowledge to take into this job. Also, in my GSTR 410 (Tradition and Modernity in East Asian Cinema), I did my project on English-language education policy in China because it sounded interesting— I had any idea that I was going to be working there!”

What is a piece of advice you would give to new students?

“Don’t be afraid to try things outside of your comfort zone and to explore opportunities. And don’t let money be a factor to stop you— there are so many opportunities for funding or connecting you to scholarships. So, be bold, go with your gut! Also, enjoy the ride; it’s easy to get tunnel vision at Berea. If you keep that for too long, you’re going to miss out on some cool opportunities and life-changing experiences.

In the beginning, I was so determined to get A’s on everything and to have a 4.0 GPA, but I worked myself to death and missed out on opportunities doing these things… it just made life really exhausting. If I had spent that one weekend to go roller skating or go on a trip, I still would have passed. So, it’s okay to have fun at Berea, it’s OK to relax— there has to be a balance but enjoy the moments because they’re going to be gone a lot faster than you realize.

Allow yourself to breathe and realize this is just one step in the grand scheme of things in life— you’re going to make it to the end and you’re going to walk across that stage.”

Have questions or want to chat with Micaela more about her story? Contact her directly at berrym2@berea.edu.

By Hannia Amaro-Zambrano
Hannia Amaro-Zambrano Peer Consultant