Hae Yeon: Thanksgiving

This is not that far from my last post, as the smoke cleared just in time for Thanksgiving.

Flashback to the pre-departure session for outgoing exchange students in June. Not only did I meet other students going to UC Berkeley, I also met the students going to the other UC campuses. Here I met Benny and Daniel, who were going to UC Santa Barbara.

They said that they were coming up to San Francisco over Thanksgiving and asked if I wanted to catch up; and of course, I said yes. My friends at Berkeley had gone home over the long break – which was even longer because classes were cancelled (check my last post) – and it would be nice to see some familiar kiwi faces in California.

Flash forward to Thanksgiving weekend, and I took the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train into San Francisco, where I met Benny, Daniel, and their group of friends from UCSB.

Side note: at the beginning of the semester, UC Berkeley also gives you a clipper card, which is similar to the Auckland Transport card. It allows you to use AC Transit buses for free, and you are able to charge money onto it to take the BART trains


Mission District
Making friends with the UCSB ‘Gauchos’

We went to see the murals in the Mission District, it was nice to just walk around and take in all the street-art. Not the most typical thing one would do in SF but it’s these hidden gems that make your trip special.

We also went to the Castro District, or The Castro, which was one of the first gay neighbourhoods in the US. It remains as one of the most prominent symbols of the LGBT community.


The entire neighbourhood is adorned with rainbows

We also went to the infamous Golden Gate Bridge. One may wonder why the red bridge is named the “Golden Gate”. The bridge is actually named for the Golden Gate Straight, the narrow entrance between the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay. The bridge was getting lit up as it was getting dark. There was also a LOT of people, which is what you would expect with such an iconic monument.

But as I was coming back from the bridge to the carpark, I noticed some of the others crowded around the car. As I got closer, I saw that the car window had been smashed, and everything was gone. At that point, I think none of us really knew how to react; this was what happened in movies, not in real life, and especially not to us.

In case you didn’t figure out where this was leading to, I was one of the unfortunates who had my bag taken, which had my wallet, bank cards, ID’s, room key etc. etc. The next hour or so was a blur; freezing my bank accounts, talking to the police, and worst of all, calling the parents. Because I had no way of getting home, I ended up staying the night with the UCSB crew at their AirBnb which was all good fun; it turns out getting robbed really helps you bond. So, the point is, travel insurance is key.

Also, some other safekeeping tips:

  • Try to take your belongings with you. If you must leave them in the car, put them in the boot.
    • Always have a look around your surroundings when putting things in the boot, people may be watching.
  • Try not to wander around by yourself at night; this is also something that is emphasized at orientation.
  • If you do happen to get robbed, call the police, report what you’ve lost; the police report card should exempt you from any replacement fees. Freeze all bank accounts if necessary.

In case you’re wondering, a few days after this incident, we got a call from an officer saying they found some ID’s – turns out that the robbers had targeted that carpark and smashed other cars. They had taken everything that was worth money and left behind our ID’s; student ID’s, driver’s license, passports. So I suppose there is a silver lining, but lesson learnt.

Hello from the other side. Literally. (Benny, Daniel, and I)


Hae Yeon: California Wildfires

As I’m sure some of you may know, California is prone to wildfires, and this year was no exception. Sources say that 2018 had the most destructive and deadly wildfire season on record. Luckily, I was not directly affected by the wildfires, but I still experienced the aftermath nonetheless; I write this post for those who are considering applying to come to California on exchange as it can be a serious health concern.


This map may not mean much, but it shows how the wildfires affect both Northern and Southern California, and some are much more destructive than others. The Camp Fire (Butte County) alone took 88 lives, with other fires also taking lives and destroying cities.

But what I want to write about is how severely the air quality was affected. In New Zealand, we are blessed with relatively clean air (even more as a person from Hawke’s Bay). It never got to the point where I would have to wear a mask.


During the wildfire season, the smoke raised the air quality index (AQI) to well over 150. Other schools around the area closed down until further notice as a safety precaution. Berkeley didn’t. Nearby supermarkets, and even Berkeley’s health centre had run out of the suggested N-95 masks. I was walking around wearing one of those medical masks which does nothing. Just walking to the dining hall right across the road was enough to make your throat dry and stuffy, and there was a lot of coughing. So, you can see that it’s quite a big problem.

There was an online petition started to close the campus and cancel classes. Over 16,000 people signed it. Although it wasn’t accepted initially, campus was eventually closed within a couple of days, as the AQI had soared over 200.

Just to put this in perspective, the AQI in Auckland sits around 19 real-time.

Also, to show how much Berkeley was affected by the smoke, here is a before and after shot of the campus.

BEFORE / AFTER – “welcome to UC Beijing”

Like I mentioned earlier, we weren’t in direct path of these fires, and the rain that followed soon after got rid of the smoke, but this definitely made me appreciate the clean air of New Zealand, and is something that you should keep in mind when considering coming to California during the dry season.


Josh: Travelling the USA

One of the most appealing aspects of any exchange is being able to travel, and before coming to America this was one of my main goals. I think it’s safe to say that it has been my favourite part of my study abroad experience. The US is such a diverse country, each of the 50 states offers something completely different and they all have their own unique culture and history which is something I’ve really come to appreciate. So far, I’ve managed to visit 8 different states and I set myself a goal to visit all 50 at some point in my life.

I came to the realisation early on, that if I wanted to see everything that I planned to, I would have to go out on my own, finding travel buddies isn’t always easy and UTA doesn’t host a very large exchange student group so I decided that solo travel would be the easiest way for me to get around. Independent travelling has the benefit of being self-driven, I don’t have to find someone else who wants to do the exact same things that I want to, I can make my own schedule and go where I want to go. I also wanted to use this trip to ‘test the waters’ and give myself a taste of what solo travelling would be like in the future. To anyone considering it, I would say do it! It’s so easy to meet other likeminded people by staying in backpackers and most Americans are extremely friendly. I’ve also learned that a kiwi accent really stands out compared to the deep southern accent that many Texans are known for, so anyone you speak to will likely ask where you’re from which can be a great conversation starter.


Car, Plane, Bus or Train?

I’ve used 3 different methods of transport so far which include flying, renting a car, and bussing. Obviously where you are going is going to limit what methods of transport you can use. For my trip to Washington D.C I really had no choice but to fly; I didn’t have the time to drive, and wasn’t keen on a 24 hour bus ride. In my experience Southwest Airlines is by far the best airline to fly with in the US. They offer 2 free checked bags, in-flight entertainment, and free drinks, and still remain the cheapest airline to fly with. They are also unique in that they don’t assign seats; where you sit is done on a first come first served basis. Not really a big deal considering how much you’re paying!

For some trips I needed to rent a car, and at the age of 19 this was no easy task. Most rental car companies won’t even consider renting to someone under 21, and the ones that do charge a premium to offset the risk. Hertz is the only big name company that will rent to 20 year olds, except for states like New York and Michigan where there state legislatures require all companies to rent from age 18 and up.

Catching the Greyhound bus is also a really cheap way to get around. I’ve used this a couple of times and honestly, for what you pay, it’s not a bad experience. It’s a little uncomfortable, but when you’re a young poor student you don’t have a lot of choice. Finally, the US also has a train service called Amtrak. I haven’t used it personally, but from what I’ve heard it’s quite expensive and not very reliable, especially when you can just catch a flight for a similar price.


Los Angeles:

My first stop in the US was Los Angeles, and man, this is a city and a half, and somewhere that I really wish I had spent more time in. If you do end up going, you definitely want to plan your days and start early. Hollywood Boulevard, Venice Beach/Santa Monica and Universal Studios/Disneyland are all the main touristy places that people associate with LA, but they are all very cool places to visit. Getting around wasn’t too much of an issue, I purchased a Tap Card (AT Hop equivalent) for $7 a day, which gave me unlimited rides on the subway, which also stops at all the places I mentioned above making it really easy to get around without having to hire a car. I chose to stay close the airport just to make things easier when I had to catch an early morning flight. However, this has the downside of being well away from all the touristy locations and means you will have to spend more time on trains and busses which is a good thing to keep in mind in weighing up where you want to stay.

Nothing could compare to the magic of Universal Studios
Hollywood Boulevard is a crazy, crazy place


Washington D.C:

Jumping over to the East Coast, I cannot recommend Washington DC enough. Even if you aren’t big on history or politics, DC is a great city with an incredibly vibrant culture. For someone like myself who is really interested in US politics, getting to see sites that hold so much historical and global significance such as the US Capitol, The White House and the Lincoln monument was an incredible experience. The city is also home to the original Constitution and the Declaration of Independence under heavy security at the National Archives. Seeing such powerful documents in person was also a very surreal moment. I spent 2 days here and (just) managed to see everything I wanted, even if it was a bit rushed and left me with very sore legs! The city is so small that everything is within walking distance, I was even able to use a Lime Scooter to get to the airport instead of spending $15 on an Uber! Security is justifiably tight in DC, expect to have your bags X-Rayed at most museums or public places you visit.

Washington monument on the national mall in DC
One of the legends of American History



The capital city of Texas – Austin, is also a place I would highly recommend if you’re in the south. A quirky town with a bustling live music scene, great BBQ and food trucks galore. Austin is also home to the world’s largest bat colony, 1.5 million bats all living under one bridge, and at sunset they all leave at once to go off and hunt for food. Sounds creepy, but it was a very cool experience and something that you have to see in person to appreciate!

Street art is a big thing in Austin
The State Capitol, taller than the capitol in DC because everything is bigger in Texas


West Texas/Roswell:

If you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten track, West Texas is home to some great national parks. Big Bend National Park sits right on the Mexican Border and is definitely worth a visit. The South Rim trail gives you stunning views over the Rio Grande and into Mexico, as long as you don’t mind a 6 hour uphill round trip. I would definitely advise you to bring at least a gallon of water (3L) and start early to beat the heat. Guadalupe Mountains, home to the highest point in Texas, and Carlsbad Caverns are also nearby in Southern New Mexico. While I was out in this area a couple of months back I also decided to take the short drive into Roswell, New Mexico, site of the 1947 Roswell Incident where a UFO supposedly crash landed. The museum here gives a really interesting look into the event with articles and eye witness accounts. I’ll admit, this definitely isn’t for everyone, but it’s something that I found really interesting and makes for a cool story to tell people when I get home. Note: when travelling anywhere around the southern border, it is a good idea to carry your passport. Border Patrol agents have set up random checkpoints within 100 miles of the Mexican border and will stop and ask you questions to confirm your legal status in the United States. As a student, this means they will want to see your F-1 Visa.

UFO Museum in Roswell, New Mexico (A serious hidden gem)
Peak of the south rim trail @ Big Bend National Park, photos can’t do it justice



I took a 5 day trip to Alaska at the end of October which was such a cool experience. Being the most sparsely populated state in the Union, most of it remains untouched with over half the population living in Anchorage alone, so much so that the entire western half of Alaska is completely inaccessible by roads due to the fact that the population is so small. Most tourism in the state occurs over the summer months from May to September, making a trip during late fall/winter a bit trickier to plan. Once snow starts to fall, driving becomes quite dangerous and temperatures fall pretty sharply. If you visit during this time, make sure you come prepared with plenty of warm clothes and if possible, rent from a company that provides vehicles with winter tires. On the plus side, it is definitely the most beautiful time of the year to visit and you’ll likely be one of the very few tourists in the state, making everything a lot cheaper! 5 days is nowhere near enough time to see everything the state has to offer so I had to be selective on where I visited. Denali National Park, Chugach State Park and Seward are just a few of the places I would recommend you visit, but the state has so much to offer that it really depends on what you want to see. This is definitely a state that I want to return to at some point in the future.

Representing UOA on the Seward Highway in Alaska
Summit of Flattop Mountain in Anchorage


Grand Canyon:

The most famous national park in the US, and by far the busiest. I took a trip here over Thanksgiving weekend and I’m glad I did. There really is something for everyone here, whether you just take a walk along the south rim and enjoy the stunning views, or head on a day trek down into the canyon. I chose the latter and it definitely pushed my fitness to its limits. Being about a week out from winter, large patches of the trail were extremely icy and trying to walk across them without slipping down into the canyon was almost like an extreme sport, but I guess this beats going in the middle of summer when temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees. I also found that I was the only person in the park wearing shorts and a t-shirt during 5 degree weather, something only a kiwi would do!

Breaking away from the crowds to take in the view


Las Vegas:

When I first arrived in the US, I didn’t plan to visit Las Vegas. Mainly because everything I associated with Las Vegas included gambling and drinking, something that I couldn’t do as I’m not 21. However, I decided to take a day trip here when I was in the area and I’m really glad that I did as it was probably my favourite location I visited while in the US. There really is so much more to Vegas than what everyone associates with it. Las Vegas Boulevard (commonly referred to as ‘the strip’) has so much to see and do and I vastly underestimated how overwhelming it would be. It’s hard to summarise how cool it is in a few sentences and I think it’s something that everyone needs to see at least once in their life!

Still repping the University of Auckland in Sin City
Bright lights of Las Vegas Boulevard


As I’m writing this I only have about 3 weeks left of my exchange before I head back to New Zealand. I’ve convinced my parents to give me a bit of extra money so I’m taking a 6 day trip to San Francisco and Chicago after exams and then spending my final 5 days in New York City which I’m absolutely buzzing for. Plus my flight home has a 24 hour stopover in Hawaii so I can’t really complain!

If you’re planning on coming to the US for an exchange, then I hope this blog has inspired you to travel or at least given you some insight into what it’s like.


Hae Yeon: Life as a Golden Bear

This post is going to be relatively casual – talking about the life as a student at Cal, and the different activities one can get up to.

Luckily for me, the earliest class I have is at 10AM on a Monday, and other days, class usually begins at 2PM. Although this may sound like I get to sleep in a lot, but that is not the case: I’m usually up in the morning trying to finish off assignments and catch up on work. Also, side note, some classes will end well past 8PM.

Because I live in on-campus housing, my fees include a meal plan; you get a certain amount of meals per week, which you can use with your Cal1 Card (student ID card). The meal plan also comes with a certain amount of Flex Dollars loaded onto your card. Flex dollars function like cash and can be used as payment at campus convenience stores, restaurants, concession stands, and for guest meals in dining halls. The Cal1 Card can also be used for doing your laundry. In other words, never lose your Cal1 Card.

Cal Football

So college sports is a HUGE part of university life, especially football. Coming from a rugby nation, there was bound to be some confusion. But basically, the aim is to move the ball towards and ultimately into the opposition’s end zone to score a touchdown. This can be done by either running with the ball until tackled, or throwing the ball down field. Obviously, there’s a lot more rules, but that’s the point. As I might have mentioned earlier, school spirit is taken very seriously: marching band, cheerleaders, dancers, you name it, it’s all there.

My favourite part: when they’re getting ready to kick off
Go Bears!

They’re actually preparing for the 121st Big Game against Stanford next week, so I’m definitely excited to watch that one.

Frat Parties

You can’t go to university in the US and leave out a frat party, right? Here there is a frat row, which pretty much means a row of frat houses. To get into a frat party, you need bids. How do you get bids? You can either be in a sorority – as frats give a certain number of bids to sororities – or get a bid directly from a brother.

I went to a party at Theta Chi through a brother, and I will say it’s definitely something worth experiencing. But do keep in mind, it gets super hot.

Sororities are not allowed to have parties of their own, and it was interesting to find out that every sorority and fraternity have their own philanthropy.

Protests and Rallys

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley is the place where the Free Speech Movement began. During the past few months, I have seen a few protests begin at Sproul Plaza, the most significant of which was the protest against Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the US Supreme Court; he had been accused of sexual assault, which he denied. Although the basis of the protest was shocking, it was inspiring to see so many people gather to fight for justice, to see matters taken so seriously.

As you may or may not know, it was the midterm elections recently, and a voting drive took place at Sproul Plaza to encourage students to vote. Even cafés were offering complimentary snacks or drinks if you had the ‘I Voted’ sticker. If I could, I would have voted.

Have you voted yet?

The Campus

The campus is truly starting feel like fall, with the trees turning gold. Daylight saving has ended so it’s sad that the sun sets early, but instead you get to see the beautiful golden hour of the sun setting after classes.

Fall is here!
The Campanile in the afternoon sunlight

To everyone at home that has finished their exams: Congratulations, wish me luck as I enter the final stretch of this semester at Berkeley!


Josh: Accommodation at UTA

As I sit writing this post, I am reminded about how quickly time is passing. I’m now over halfway through my exchange which is insane to think about. People often say that time flies when you’re having fun, and as clichéd as it is, it’s so true. It feels like last week that I was nervously hopping on a plane to the other side of the world, but I have to constantly remind myself that it was over two months ago. For this post, I wanted to write about one of the most important parts of any exchange – Housing.

As with most Universities, you have a choice between on and off campus accommodation. There are pros and cons to each, and depending on your individual circumstances, things may differ for you, but I’ll try and explain how I reached my decision and the process surrounding applications.

Living off campus is a bit hit and miss in Arlington, not only because of the fact that most leases require a minimum one year contract, but also because (as I mentioned previously) Arlington does not have any public transport meaning you need to live within walking distance of campus. With these factors, it just wasn’t worth this hassle for me to try and live off campus, especially when I’m only going to be here for four months. But hey, if you can make it work or want to challenge yourself then more power to you!

This brings me to on-campus housing, something I was already familiar with having lived in University Accomodation at UOA for the past year and a half. UTA offers the standard halls or “dorms” and also on-campus apartments, that provide a more independent lifestyle (which includes being able to cook for yourself). Having lived in both types of accommodation before, I definitely had a preference towards a more independent flatting environment, and wasn’t too keen to go back into a hall situation. But like with off-campus housing, all UTA apartments have a minimum one-year lease and unless you can find someone to take over your lease at the end of the semester, all the termination fees fall squarely on you (not something I was keen to be sorting out during exam time). Therefore, I made the decision to live in one of the halls on campus.

West Hall Exterior


Floor 3 Common Area

UTA offers 7 different Halls of Residence. I opted to live in West Campus Hall, the newest hall on campus only opening in August and home to about 500 students. Fortunately, one of the worst parts of living in a first year hall in Auckland, the shared bathrooms, were not a problem as each room comes with an ensuite! If you live in a hall at UTA, you are required to purchase a meal plan (optional for people living in an apartment). A meal plan essentially gives you a set number of “meal swipes” per semester that you can use at one of two dining locations on campus. The two locations provide a decent range of food and it’s all you can eat! There are different tiers of plans you can purchase but it would take me an entire post to explain the differences so I’ll just leave it at that, but it is definitely something you want to research thoroughly before you make a decision, because like housing, meal plans are expensive! The benefits to living in a hall are as you would come to expect; a sense of community, ease of friendships, and academic and social support just to name a few. These did play a role in helping me decide where I wanted to live, so it’s important that you give some consideration as to what you want your housing experience to be while on exchange.

Layout of a standard room at West Hall. You’re not a true Texan until you have a duvet with the Texas State flag on it!


Most homes in the US have a thermostat that lets you adjust the temperature of your room. Kinda wish they would adopt the metric system though!

The application process for living on campus, or at least living in a hall is extremely straightforward. You are able to apply as soon as you receive your acceptance letter (around mid-April for those studying in the Fall semester). It’s a good idea to start thinking about housing early though, so you know where you want to live once applications open. If you apply early, you’ll likely receive an offer within two days and unlike UOA, accommodation works on a first come first served basis, they even let you select your room!!

Roommates are also a big part of the college experience in the US. Coming from NZ, where this practice is so uncommon, it stressed me out a lot, considering I have never had to share a room before, let alone with a complete stranger. Fortunately, UTA does its best to match you to someone that you will get along well with by making you answer questions on your sleep schedule, study habits and general level of cleanliness to name a few. The whole experience can be a little daunting at first, but trust me, after a week or so, you barely notice it. My roommate and I don’t see a lot of each other, he has a pretty full schedule during the day, and I’m away most weekends, so we really only interact for a couple of hours a day, if that. The RA’s know that sharing a room can take a bit of getting used to, so they have tried to help with the transition by providing “Roommate Contracts” where both parties agree on boundaries for things like cleaning, having people over, and sleeping.

Finally, I just want to leave you with a few tips:

  • Make sure you apply early. I know, I know, the host university has already told you this a thousand times, but seriously, housing fills up fast and you don’t want to be left scrambling to find a room a week before classes start.
  • Don’t be put off by the idea of having a roommate, it serves as a great way to meet people right from the start, and who knows, they may even become a lifelong friend.
  • Take your time in considering what will work for you. Where you live during your exchange plays a large part in your experience overall, and also requires a significant financial investment. So make sure you take the time to assess all the options before you go ahead and apply.

That’s all for this post, I’m currently preparing for my 5 day trip to Alaska which I’m super pumped for. I’m planning to dedicate my next post to travel so stay tuned to hear whether I survive the arctic temperatures! As always feel free to contact me at jwin740@aucklanduni.ac.nz if you have any questions or follow my Instagram @josh.winnie

Cheers for reading,


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



Hae Yeon: Welcome to Cal!

Hey, everyone! It’s been just over a month since I’ve arrived at UC Berkeley, and I think it’s about time to share my first impressions, as well as the process in actually getting here.


Since I got my acceptance letter into UC Berkeley (which is a whole another process in itself, feel free to contact me), I had to juggle studying for finals with paperwork and visa applications. The international office at UC Berkeley do support you – including providing the DS-2019 eligibility certificate which is essential for a visa. You also have to have an interview at the US Consulate in Auckland. The atmosphere may intimidate you but as long as you have the correct documents, it’s not that bad. The J-1 visa was a long process that took well over a month, so my best advice would be to get onto that application as soon as possible. Another important thing to know would be that you do not have to have a return ticket to receive your visa, and while booking your flights early may save money, be sure that your visa is approved before then.

Until next year, NZ!


To get to Berkeley, you can either fly to San Francisco or Oakland (side note: my friends seem to think Oakland sounds the same as Auckland, it doesn’t). I flew to San Francisco via Sydney. What was tougher than the long flights was the jet lag. I left on the morning of Friday 10 August, and I landed in San Francisco in the morning of the same day.

Berkeley has an awesome network of alumni who are always willing to help out. If required, the international students are allowed to request free ‘temporary housing’, which is where you can stay with an alumni until the residence halls open for move-in day. I stayed with Joan in the town of San Leandro, on the eastern shore of San Francisco.

San Leandro, CA

First impression of California? It was hot. But it was definitely nice to get away from the cold of the New Zealand winter.


After a couple of amazing days in San Leandro (which included a day trip to San Francisco), it was finally move-in day – and although I did not know what to expect, UC Berkeley did not disappoint. The campus is beautiful, with small nature trails and old, traditional buildings. UC Berkeley (also known as Cal) prides itself as the top public university in the world, and is internationally recognized as a prestigious research university. It was founded in 1868, has an intense rivalry with Stanford, and our mascot is Oski the bear.

An iconic feature of the campus is the Campanile, or Sather Tower, which is a fancy way of saying clock tower. It is taller than Stanford’s, and gives you an amazing view of the entire Bay Area. In front of the Campanile, is the 4.0 Ball – if you rub the ball before your finals, you’ll get good grades. Apparently.

The view from the Campanile
The 4.0 Ball

Also, UC Berkeley is full of history and tradition – one of them being the Sproul Plaza, where the Free Speech Movement began in the 1960’s.

Sproul Plaza

The campus was everything I imagined and more, and I am super glad that I had the opportunity to come here. It was a long time coming, but definitely worth it. I’m excited to see this year play out and see what is in store, both in and outside of campus. I will be uploading more posts about life at Cal (including the Golden Bear Orientation) and California in general, so stay tuned!

If you’re ever considering going on an exchange, have questions about Berkley, or California in general, feel free to comment or email me at haeyeon1015@berkeley.edu and I will do my best!

Also, if you’re interested in seeing more of what I do, you can follow me on Instagram @haeyeon_angela!!