Tana: Memorable Activities and Places

As is always the case in university, it can be very easy to get caught up in your school work and forget about enjoying life outside of the library. However, since I am on exchange this semester I am trying to make an active effort to get myself away from the books and out into the world. And I do feel like I have done a fairly good job of that if I do say so myself. So for this blog, I am going to highlight a few of the memorable activities and places I have explored while on exchange so far.

Road Trips:

One of my favourite things about California is that there are so many cool places within driving distance which makes it so easy to go on spontaneous adventures. So far, I have been to Santa Cruz, San Jose, San Diego, Yosemite, San Francisco, Oakland, Davis and even Mexico! Of course, some of these places took more planning than others.

Places like San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose are fairly easy to get to because of their close proximity to Berkeley. For those of you who are wondering how to get there: the Bay area has a train system called the BART which allows for easy transportation from Oakland to San Francisco (which goes through Berkeley). There is also a bus (free for Cal students) that leaves from UC Berkeley and goes straight to San Francisco.

Tana_4a
The beautiful city of San Francisco at night

If I had to suggest one place not to miss while here in Northern California, it would definitely have to be Yosemite. My friends and I planned a weekend trip to the breathtaking national park during the National Parks Week which allowed us free entry into the park. Despite the place being packed with tourists, we were still able to appreciate the falls in all their beauty. As you can probably imagine, there was no photo we could have taken that would have done justice to the serenity of the views we witnessed. Nonetheless, I am inserting photos to give you a vague idea of what to expect.

Tana_4b
Top of Nevada Falls
Tana_4c
Be prepared for your legs to hurt for several days after

Mexico was another fun trip that we did during Spring Break. It in itself is a whole other story, but I would 100% recommend visiting Mexico because it was both cheap and fun. If you would like more information about how we got there and what we did, feel free to email me, and I’d be more than happy to pass on some tips.

Tana_4d
Post-surf
tana_4e-e1563942665327.jpg
Taken in Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico

Basketball Games:

As many of you probably know, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is a huge deal here in America, and so when I was presented with the opportunity to attend two of their games, I knew I had to go. The second game I attended was the Golden State Warriors versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. I could not believe the insane talent that was playing on the court. To top it all off, I managed to get court side seats which meant I could literally see Stephen Curry’s facial expressions while he played. This was hands down one of the best nights of my life.

Tana_4f
Tristan Thompson trying to focus while the entire crowd “boos” him
Tana_4g
The remarkable Stephen Curry

As you can see, there are plenty of exciting things to do here in Northern California to keep you busy on the weekends. Not only does San Francisco constantly have events going on, but even Berkeley itself offers entertainment throughout the semester. In fact, just last week we had llamas on campus. Truly never a dull moment.

Anyways, I’ve got to go study for finals now; I can’t believe the semester is already coming to an end. Next time I write my blog will probably be back home in New Zealand.

Thanks for reading!! 🙂

Tana

Bani: Final Impressions – a Home Away from Home

Before I knew it, my time at Berkeley had come to an end. I did go through the process of extending my exchange into the next semester but was unable to on account of some technical difficulties with my courses. Do let me know if you need any help with this process!

Between Classes Sunbathing at the Glade!

The University of California, Berkeley, gave me friends and memories that I will cherish forever. From Golden Bear Orientation to study week (known as dead week) and finals week (which just butchers you), my 4 months at Berkeley went by in the blink of an eye.

Some final thoughts, ideas and tips about spending a semester abroad!

  1. You’re going to miss home. Make sure you have a little memento from home you take with you, I took my Minnie Mouse stuffed toy which I’ve had since I was eight years old with me. Whenever I felt like I missed home, I just looked at it and felt much better.
  2. You’re sometimes going to be too busy to call home! But do take out a few minutes of your day, just to let someone you love back home know that you’re okay.
  3. Dead week is going to be one of the most stressful experiences of your life. It’s okay, take a deep breath and go to office hours! I can’t stress this enough. Office hours and consulting GSIs and professors probably helped me more than anything during this period. It helped me focus, take a step back, and actually evaluate how prepared I was. Berkeley is a difficult school and the pressure will come as a surprise.
  4. GET INVOLVED! There are hundreds of clubs at UC Berkeley, from those who beer brewing to photography, mental health and so much more. There are so many research opportunities at this school available at both an undergraduate and graduate level. Find your niche, get involved! Being part of 7Cups at Berkeley, the Marvel Cinematic Universe DeCal, the Harry Potter DeCal and research at the Language and Cognitive Development Lab helped me meet so many people who loved the same stuff as I did!
  5. Remember to tip! Keep in mind that most workers make money off their tips, and it may feel weird that you’re obligated to tip, but do remember to leave 12-20% depending on service!
  6. And most of all, make some lasting memories.
bani_5c
My Roommates!

This is all from me for now! If you have any questions regarding exchange, you can reach out to me through my Auckland email ID: bseh764@aucklanduni.ac.nz. And since I ate burgers at too many places to count at the end, I’ve got a small list of burger places around the Bay Area that you should try too!

BURGER FEATURE(S)

Berkeley Social Club California Burger: 9/10

Spruce Burger: 9.5/10

Nopa Woodgrilled Burger: 10/10

Eureka Chesseburger: 8.5/10

The Snack Shack Cheeseburger: 8/10

These were, in my opinion, some of the best burgers I had the pleasure of eating. Do visit these places (across San Francisco and Berkeley). You won’t regret it!

Bani

Tana: Cultural Differences

As you may or may not know, I attended an American high school which means I was already exposed to the American school culture before coming on exchange. In my opinion, the “college culture” is simply an extension of this high school culture. In saying that, it’s still vastly different from the culture back home in Auckland, so I thought I’d write this blog to give you an idea of what it is like over here.

Right of the bat, I’m going to say that the school spirit is contagiously high here at UC Berkeley. In fact, I genuinely don’t think you could go anywhere on campus without seeing a sculpture of the Golden Bear, people in blue and yellow merchandise, Berkeley stickers or even just hearing someone say “Go Bears”! Even the bathrooms here, all have the “Cal” logo on their soap dispensers which I find comical even now after being here for more than three months.

tana_3a.jpg

These bears sure do love posing for photos

As you all have probably seen in movies, the school spirit at college is tremendous during football games. Unfortunately, football games only happen during the fall semester which is during the second half of the year and I’m on exchange during the Spring semester. None the less, I have still been able to experience a portion of this excitement at a basketball game I attended which was against Stanford (our biggest rivals). It was definitely very exciting to be a part of such a passionate crowd!

Tana_3b
We got free shirts at the Basketball game!
Tana_3c
UC Berkeley vs Stanford (let’s not talk about the score)

Apart from the school spirit, I have also noticed other cultural differences that I don’t think I would have ever encountered at the University of Auckland. I think the best way to sum it up, is that the community at Berkeley is very understanding and accepting of all people. They work hard to create an inclusive and comfortable environment. To illustrate, it’s a common practice here at Berkeley to include your preferred pronouns (she, her, hers or he, him, his) when introducing yourself.

I have also noticed that the Berkeley culture encourages people to talk about their feelings with one another and acknowledge how certain things make them feel. This was especially prominent during the Golden Bear Orientation.

Tana_3d
Taken at the Golden Bear Orientation

The most common example of this was an activity that I encountered many a times wherein we were all given various descriptions, and if we fitted the description we were asked to stand up (if we felt comfortable doing so) and then we had to “notice who’s standing, notice who’s not, and notice how we feel” before sitting back down. And although this sounds like a minor activity it actually got me actively thinking about things I didn’t even know I could think about so deeply.

Another thing I would like to point out is how open-minded people are over here. Whether it be about a new idea or about other people, Berkeley truly is very accepting of everyone and everything.

Tana_3e
UC Berkeley’s Indian Holi Festival

So yes, even though America is an English-speaking country, there are still prominent cultural differences that have stuck out to me and broadened my horizons about things I hadn’t actively thought about before.

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to flick me an email.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Tana

Bani: CalTech, UCLA, and Holi!

Hi everyone! I’m back.

In this blog post, I want to talk about how I’ve been unwinding at UC Berkeley.

During the second weekend of March, two of my friends and I headed to CalTech or the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena. We were there to observe a hackathon that was happening there. A hackathon is an event that usually lasts about 48 hours where computer programmers come together to make something new.

What followed was one of the greatest weekends I have spent in California!

We started the weekend with an open mic night at one of the residence halls. From death metal, to self-composed acoustic songs, opera songs, and whistling, the students at CalTech showed us what it really means to enjoy music! The night ended with hundreds of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, which obviously, is a great way to end any night.

The next day, we headed out to LA where we walked around the city. Even though it rained the entire time we walked the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was quite an experience. We then went on to UCLA, which is a beautiful university with one of the best campuses I have ever seen! Our day in LA ended with a trip to Santa Monica pier and then home cooked Indian food at my friend’s cousin’s place.

Bani_3a
UCLA
Bani_3b
Walk of Fame (David Bowie’s star!)

Our next morning was spent at Venice beach, which included mangoes, strawberries and basketball games. LA is a fun, vibrant city with some of the most interesting people I have ever met. All of our Uber drivers had something fun to tell us, they were all from different parts of the world, with different stories and opinions about the world.

Bani_3c
UCLA
Bani_3d
Venice Beach!

The next big thing at Cal was Holi which is the Indian festival of colours. Hosted by the Indian Students Association, Cal’s Holi celebration is the biggest one on the west coast. Hundreds of kids get together, from every culture, ethnicity and country, and use water and colours to give rise to one of the most colourful celebrations of all time. As you can see in the photos below, taking a shower was quite a pain afterwards (but it was 100% worth it!).

Bani_3e

Bani_3f
Before Holi!

Cal has one of the most diverse student populations in the world and it is amazing to see them embrace all members of different communities to form one big Cal family. Holi was one of the most memorable days I have spent at Cal and I will never forget how unique, heartwarming and wholesome the whole experience was!

Bani_3g
Holi Aftermath!

BURGER FEATURE

Shake Shack: 11/10

Sadly, I did not get a picture of the burger I ate at Shake Shack in LA simply because I could not wait long enough to click a picture before I dug in. It was one of the most delicious burgers I have ever tasted and the only word I have for the shake is scrumptious. I think everyone who loves burgers needs to try Shake Shack at least once!

Bani

Bani: LA and Irvine – Tips on Travelling in the States

Hello hello!

My fourth blog post is dedicated to my wonderful trip to Los Angeles and Irvine, where I visited a friend from high school for about six days. She goes to UC Irvine, so I also got to see another UC Campus. As mentioned in my bio, I am super obsessed with anything Harry Potter related so the main purpose of this trip at the end of the semester was to visit Universal Studios, Hollywood and also eat some wonderful food around the Los Angeles and Irvine area.

Bani_4a
UC Irvine’s Cotton Candy Sky!

I would also like to mention some tips on travelling around the United States. One of the things that was an absolute shock to me when I was booking my flight tickets to Los Angeles was that you have to pay extra for baggage when flying domestically. So, be prepared to pay USD 40-60 (per suitcase!) for checked in and carry on luggage when flying somewhere.

Further, you could also take Amtrak within states, or across state lines since it’s not that expensive and the railway system is really well developed. It’s quite fun to watch the Californian landscape through the upper berth of Amtrak trains. Further, there are tonnes of cheap bus services available with prices as low as USD 5 if you book the tickets in advance. Even if you do end up booking the tickets much later, a trip as far as San Diego should not cost more than USD 40.

My trip to Los Angeles was full of experiences from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, some wonderful food, and the Hollywood Sign hike. To go to Universal Studios, I would suggest reaching around 10-11am. Look at the weather forecast earlier and if you can afford it, definitely invest in the Express Line passes (since most rides have a wait period of 2-3 hours on a busy day). If possible, try to go on a date where you can catch a cool light show at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (we happened to see the Dark Arts one and it was beautiful).

Bani_4b

Bani_4c
HOGSMEADE!

Los Angeles and Irvine also have some delectable food. The Anaheim Packing District near Irvine was full of small food-court-style restaurants which offered a variety of cuisines from Southern American, to Mediterranean and Vietnamese. Los Angeles’ Melrose Avenue and Sunset Boulevard are well known for their picturesque landscapes and delicious brunch food.

Bani_4d
A Chicken Avocado Sandwich at Sunset Boulevard!

Of course, when in Los Angeles, do visit Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Sign in Griffith Park. There are three routes around the Hollywood sign, varying from easy to hard difficulty. Start out the hike around 4:30pm and make it back to Griffith Observatory around 7pm to catch a beautiful sunset. If the night’s a clear one, try to spot a constellation or two through the many telescopes inside the observatory which is free for everyone! There’s also a bus there that takes you outside the park where you can then call an Uber.

Bani_4e
Hello Hollywood!

A word of advice though, there are some coyotes roaming around this area around the evening (and my friend and I were unlucky enough to encounter two!) but if you stay calm, walk with a group and ignore the coyotes, they’ll ignore you right back!

Bani_4f
View from Griffith Observatory!

California truly is the golden state, so make sure you do end up seeing as much of it as you can. Eat some tacos in San Diego, take a bus to San Jose, wear your Mickey Mouse ears at Disneyland Anaheim, and check out the sparkling Lake Tahoe! Travelling is quite fun, be sure to bring your camera so you can capture the gorgeous sunsets this state offers.

BURGER FEATURE

Bani_4g

The Butcher, the Baker, Cappuccino Maker: 10/10

A wonderfully delicious, perfectly medium rare burger at this eatery at Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. Slightly pricey, but nothing people from Auckland aren’t used to. You won’t regret it! The meat was juicy and tender, the fries were crunchy, and the cheese was too die for!

Bani

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!

Bani_2a
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.

Bani_2b
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 bani@berkeley.edu.

And now, for BURGER FEATURE PART TWO.

BURGER FEATURE

Bani_2c

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

Tana: A Day in the Life of a Haas Student

Hey again! For this blog I thought it would be interesting if I outlined a typical day for me here at UC Berkeley so you can get a feel of the daily life.

My Tuesday normally begins with my alarm going off at 6:45am and me snoozing for the next half hour or so. After managing to finally roll out of bed, I grab my toiletries and head to the bathroom to get freshened up. Once I have gotten ready, I take the elevator down to the dining hall, where I grab a quick breakfast.

Tana_2a
Morning view of Berkeley

After I have finished eating, I walk to the gym which is approximately ten-minutes away from the international house (i-house). The Berkeley gym is large recreational facility with all sorts of fitness machines, weights, basketball courts and work-out rooms. The gym is almost always packed during the mornings and nights so I only go there for the cardio classes which also tend to be full, but enjoyable nonetheless. On Tuesday mornings, I attend a BollyX class which is essentially dance cardio with Indian music. I really enjoy this class because the instructor is super energetic so it’s a great way to have a fresh start to the morning. Oh, and did I mention all of this is free for Berkeley students?!

Tana_2b
Dance Cardio Class

By the time I get back to i-house and take a shower, it is almost 10am. So, for the next hour and a half I usually review my notes or do my homework. When lunch rolls around, my friends and I are normally starved so we head down to the dining hall and catch up over a delicious meal.

Now it’s time for class. On Tuesday’s I have two back to back classes from 12:30 to 3:30. Both my classes are in small lecture rooms, in Haas, with approximately 25 students in each lecture. I really enjoy the small class size because it creates an interactive environment which is really nice compared to my other class which has 200 students in one lecture theatre.

Tana_2c
Classroom in the Chou Hall
Tana_2d
Haas School of Business

Now that I am done with classes for the day, I usually head to the Haas library which is one of the 29 libraries here at UC Berkeley. This library only contains business textbooks which are available for a free two-hour loan. The majority of the library consists of tables and chairs for studying; in fact, they also have cycling machines called FitDesks which can be used while studying. Although they aren’t very popular, I still think it’s a great addition to the library.

Tana_2e
FitDesks in the Haas Library

After a few hours of studying, I head back to the i-house dining hall for dinner. During this time, my friends and I fill each other in on our days and anything interesting we encountered that day. Depending on our schedules, this normally lasts an hour, so by the end of it I am ready to unwind. I head up to my room at around 8:30 and spend the rest of the night catching up with friends and family back home or simply just watching some Netflix.

All in all, my weekdays are quite simple and somewhat similar to those back home. However, I do feel like I have a lot more time on my hands here since I don’t have to commute to and from university.

I hope this blog helped you gain an insight of daily life here at Berkeley. If you are interested in finding out more about the particular classes I am taking this semester, feel free to shoot me an email at tkap973@aucklanduni.ac.nz.

Thanks for reading 🙂

Tana