UC Berkeley alumna Karla Cruz Godoy has fond memories of “Survivor.” In her college years, she would often watch the reality TV show at local bars such as White Horse and Kip’s, and she has been a fan ever since she first heard of it one day outside of the campus school of education.
Now, Godoy will have a chance to make new memories about the show — but from the other side of the screen. She and fellow campus alumnus Jesse Lopez are two of 18 contestants on the 43rd season of “Survivor,” and they could not be happier for the opportunity.
“It’s just a really surreal feeling given where I started in life,” Lopez said in an email. “Being a kid who was involved in gangs, not really sure where I’d end up, to somehow end up with a PhD and playing this historic game – it feels like a dream!”
The show, which is set on a remote island where contestants must fight for their survival, premieres Wednesday night on CBS. The competitors — who initially compete as “tribes” and then as individuals — will gradually be eliminated by vote, and one will ultimately receive a $1 million prize.
The voting and social politics aspect of the show is especially interesting to Lopez, who now works as a survey methodologist after earning his doctoral and bachelor’s degrees in political science from Duke University and UC Berkeley, respectively.
“I wanted to watch something related to what I study, and Survivor is all about that!” Lopez said in the email. “My passion for studying voting and Survivor is really rooted in my time at UC Berkeley!”
Godoy, who now works for an education company, echoed Lopez’s sentiments, noting that attending UC Berkeley has helped excite and prepare her for the show. Her experiences in college gave her an analytical mind and the ability to connect with a diversity of people, according to Godoy.
Though the competition starts this week, getting cast on “Survivor” is a “long road” with its own challenges, according to Lopez. He noted he first applied in 2019 and went through months of interviews before being cast. His appearance this season comes after numerous “ups and downs,” including years of pandemic delays, he added.
Godoy, who applied last year, felt that the casting process was not too difficult for her, citing her confidence and sense of self. That attitude got her a spot on the show, she noted, and will be visible on air.
“I get the opportunity to share an underrepresented story in television which is that of a badass woman of color from the hood who overcame generational poverty, went to the best public school in the world, and is now trying to improve education across the country,” Godoy said in an email. “I’m definitely pumped!”
Amudha Sairam contributed to this story.