Hae Yeon: Golden Bear Orientation at UC Berkeley

Hi everyone, sorry it’s been too long – it’s midterm season and it’s been hectic trying to juggle midterms with assignments on top of enjoying California.

It’s funny that I write about orientation week when it’s already middle of the term, but I feel like it’s such a key aspect of the transition into Berkeley. Plus, it’s where I met my closest friends here. I also had to attend the International Student Orientation, but GBO is what you really need to know about.

Golden Bear Orientation

Unlike the University of Auckland, Golden Bear Orientation (GBO) is mandatory. But like UoA, GBO is a week long, and it can be a chance for you to make new friends before the semester officially starts. Think of it like your initiation into Berkeley; it helps you make connections with peers and faculty, learn about the available resources, and experience campus traditions.

All set for Golden Bear Orientation

The activities that you do during GBO really depend on your GBO leader, as each group has their own, personalized schedule. But they’re mostly geared towards helping you get your bearings around the huge campus (comfortable shoes are a must) and Berkeley in general. Since a lot has happened in the week, I will narrow it down to the key activities of GBO:

Bear Affair: The entire incoming class comes together for the first rally at Cal. Starting with an all-class photo, we ‘break the ice’ and meet people from other GBO groups: freshmen, junior transfers, and international students alike.


Bear Pact: A mandatory presentation on the various issues faced by college students: sexual violence and harassment, mental health, and alcohol use. Learn how to balance academics, social life, and personal health.

Coming to Berkeley, you realise that some of these issues are very real and it’s important to be aware of them. It was definitely different because these issues were something that’s not so openly discussed at the University of Auckland, especially during orientation.

Bear Territory: Where the incoming class gathers in Haas Pavilion to recognize and reflect upon the diversity of UC Berkeley.

UC Berkeley is known for its progressiveness (after all, it was the beginning of the Free Speech Movement). Due to this, there is a great emphasis placed on diversity and acceptance. When we think diversity, the most common thing we think of is race, or sexuality, but Bear Territory showed that it went far beyond that to include religion, first-generation, re-entry and veterans.

Campus Tours 

Utmost respect for the flag-bearers that carry/wave the flags during rallys and games

Day in the Bay / Company Visit: As a ‘transfer’, we got to choose to spend time in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is our extended home, or a company visit. Day in the Bay could include going to the Golden Gate Bridge.

I went on a company visit to AKQA, a digital ideas and innovation company. It was exciting because I found out they also have an office in Auckland, to which I might be able to visit or have work experience (networking is key).


AKQA in San Francisco

Convocation: The official ceremony welcoming the incoming class into the campus community. This was the first time I heard the US national anthem being sung; and the whole vibe with the school band, cheerleaders and dancers made it seem like I was in a movie.

Go Bears!

Late-Night Programmes: After the full-on day, GBO continues into the night with fun activities from 9PM. Activities included performances, hypnotists, movie nights and silent discos. Late-night isn’t mandatory but that’s usually when all the fun happens…so I highly recommend.

Dancing the night away. One thing to note, quite often, a lot of the fog rolls in from San Francisco and makes for a rather picturesque view of the Campanile

As you can probably tell, GBO is a packed week, going from 9AM to 12AM and will probably make you more tired than the semester itself. But like I mentioned earlier, because you’re spending so much time with your GBO group, you become super close with peers and your leaders. My closest friends at Berkeley are those that I made at GBO. Especially for an exchange student joining halfway through, where you virtually know no one, it was nice to meet other junior transfers, who were in a similar boat.

I will be honest. Yes, GBO will make you exhausted, but it’s compulsory so you might as well enjoy it; when else am I going to see people hypnotised or go to a silent disco?

Before I leave, my tips:

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to people – they’re all pretty nice people once you start talking (plus, the NZ accent is a great conversation starter).
  • Get as much free stuff during GBO as you can, whether it’s stationary, food, or a portable thermometer.
  • Use GBO to find your bearings, and get an idea of where your classes are.
  • Look into the libraries (there’s 25 at Berkeley, and each has their own perks).
  • Attend events: like I said, you might as well have fun.

I’ll be writing more tips as I think of them so stay tuned!

GBO Group 614 with our ‘mom’ Dylan



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