Bani: Resources at UC Berkeley

Hi everyone! One and a half months into my semester at UC Berkeley has made me realise how great campus resources are! From research opportunities to tutoring options and hackathons, Berkeley wants you to know that there is never a quiet moment here.

Right off the bat, I applied for a research assistant position in the Language and Cognitive Development Lab. The lab is run by Professor Mahesh Srinivasan, has numerous postdoc, graduate and undergraduate students who are a part of numerous studies.

So far, I have been involved in two different studies. The first one required me to transcribe and translate interviews from Hindi to English. The data was collected from India and focused on religious and cultural norms as understood by primary school students. The second study involved coding data collected from middle school and high school students that gauged their understanding of caste and gender norms in India. As a Psychology major who grew up in India, being a part of this study has been an enriching experience and I hope to get involved in different studies across the lab.

I will keep you all updated about my research and what I’m involved with!

Berkeley boasts some of the most beautiful sunsets in the Bay Area

The next thing I would like to touch on is the academic side of exchange. I have not seen a lot of posts about this, so for all of you planning on coming to UC Berkeley, I would like to give you an idea of the academic pressure at Berkeley.

My midterms started in the third week of classes and are scheduled up until the fifteenth week. The cherry on top of the cake is that each of my classes have three-to-four midterms. Now, I know that sounds daunting and like a lot of work but the beauty of having everything spread out is that you get an adequate time to prepare for everything (unless you love procrastinating like I do). There is constantly something to work towards, and do not worry if you think you’re falling behind. From office hours, to tutors at the SLC (Student Learning Center), and GSIs, you have all the help you need on campus in order to ensure you don’t fall behind! All professors are accommodating and willing to help out in case you need extensions or help.

The Campanile is one of my favourite structures on campus!

One of my favourite things about UC Berkeley is what my friends like to call the ‘constant grind’. Being on the campus of the number one public university in the world is a great privilege and as a semester abroad student, I think it is my duty to make use of all the resources available to me. I have joined the 7Cups at Berkeley organisation, which is a mental health organisation that provides free online counselling. I am handling the finances for this organisation for the semester and am currently training under the Rogerian model of therapy.

Further, the campus offers decals which are student run classes for one to two units that you can take pass/no pass. These decals can range from a class on Harry Potter (which I am obviously enrolled in) to classes on Baking, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Virtual Reality, and Drake and Kanye West (yep, you read that right, they have a class on Drake and Kanye West).

So yes, the past few weeks have flown by for me. I am excited to keep you all updated on my journey! For my next post, expect to hear a lot about CalTech and UCLA which is where I will be next weekend. If you have any questions, you can reach out to me at




Super Duper: 8/10

I ordered a cheeseburger, a vanilla and chocolate swirl shake and cheese garlic fries. I have to say, my favourite thing were the fries and the pickles. The garlic fries were unlike anything I’ve ever tasted and added a lot to the whole meal!

Stay tuned for more burger updates!


Bani: Initial Experiences at UC Berkeley


Hi everyone! It’s almost been a month since I arrived at the University of California, Berkeley but I have to say, it feels like so much longer. For this blog post, I will give you an overview of my initial experiences on exchange.

The process of applying to the University of California was a long one (you can contact me if you have any questions about that!). After receiving my acceptance, I cracked down on the process of applying for a visa, which takes a while, so you should get started on it as soon as you can. Initially, you apply for a DS-2019 form (it takes about one month to get to you), after which you can schedule an appointment at the United States consulate for an interview and obtain a J-1 Visa.

Since Auckland was getting a few particularly sunny summer days right as I was leaving, I delayed packing for as long as I could. When I did finally start, the biggest problem I faced was figuring out how to get my seven Harry Potter books to California with me (I managed). I would recommend bringing an umbrella and a windbreaker if you’re coming on exchange during the Spring semester because it’s been raining almost nonstop since I have arrived here. My friends have mentioned this is one of the coldest winters Berkeley has seen in a while and they like to blame me for this because they think I brought Auckland weather with me.

You can get to Berkeley by flying into either San Francisco or Oakland. I flew to San Francisco via Los Angeles the evening before my Orientation started. It was raining the day I got here, but my roommate’s warm welcome made up for the stormy weather.

The campus by night

The following day, I saw the campus for the first time and I have to say, it was quite impressive. Though originally the campus started at Sather Gate, it has been moved one block ahead and now begins at Sproul which sees a lot of activity as multiple clubs, fraternities and sororities set up their tables and try to recruit members over the course of the semester. As you enter the campus through Sather Gate, you are by greeted old, traditional looking buildings and the Campanile or the Sather Tower (which is the clock tower). The campus is breathtakingly beautiful and has multiple trails and nooks scattered all over it.

Memorial Glade, UC Berkeley
Sather Tower or the Campanile

UC Berkeley (or Cal, as they call themselves) and Stanford have an intense rivalry and my favourite bit of history about this rivalry has to do with the Campanile. When Stanford was building Hoover Tower, it asked Cal about the height of the Campanile and Cal reported an incorrect measurement so that Hoover Tower would always be shorter than Campanile.

The site of the 1964 Free Speech Movement, Berkeley has a vibrant history with active involvement in political and social issues. Even today, Berkeley prides itself on being not only the number one public institution in the United States but also a campus that places values of freedom and justice above all.

During GBO

My first week was all about Golden Bear Orientation (GBO), which is a big thing here. From a trip to the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco to trivia night at Anne Hall, Cal tries to make the week-long orientation experience as fun as possible! We were assigned to GBO groups with three leaders in each group and I was lucky to have a wonderful orientation group, the members of which were quite excited about being featured on this blog. Though a fun experience, GBO can be tiring because you usually start at 8am and finish at 10pm. They start with campus tours, speeches by the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor and faculty, discussions and presentations on issues we might face, motivational speeches, trivia night, movie night and a Day in the Bay (a fun activity somewhere in the Bay Area).

Day in the Bay (Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco)

Overall, my my first few weeks have been a life-changing experience. I have met wonderful, warm people who have welcomed me to this new city with open arms. In my next post, I will talk more about classes and the opportunities this great campus has to offer. But for now, I will end with a Burger Feature (which will be a constant throughout my posts)



Nation’s Giant Hamburgers: 7/10

My roommate and I ordered a chocolate thickshake and a cheeseburger each at 1am the night before our first midterm. The thickshake did not disappoint and the burger tasted wonderful as well (I do believe it would have tasted better if we’d had it fresh instead of getting it delivered). Also, meet Tesla the Panda and Puggi the Teddy.

Stay tuned for more updates!