Harvey: Accommodation and Dorm Life

Welcome back to the blog! I’ve just finished my first set of four midterms, and they went surprisingly quite well. I’ve got a couple of weeks before my next set of midterms, so I’m planning to take advantage of this to do a bit of relaxing and travelling. In the meantime, I thought it’d be helpful going through the accommodation options and dorm life here at Berkeley.

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Trying In-N-Out for the first time with my roommate

Accommodation

As an exchange student, you can either choose to live on-campus housing or find your own apartment/flat off-campus. Off-campus housing is typically cheaper (and more pleasant for the price you pay), but will involve much more work on your end; you’ll need to make sure you don’t get scammed, and you will probably need to view the property beforehand. Both of which may be difficult if you’re not already in the states. Furthermore, since most housing contracts are usually 12 months, if you’re only exchanging for one semester, it may be difficult to find another tenant to replace you when you leave. On the other hand, on-campus housing tends to be quite pricey for what you get, but I find it to be much more convenient and an excellent way to meet other students. On-campus housing also includes a meal plan, so you won’t need to cook.

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Maximo Martinez Commons

There are quite a few university residence halls to choose from, ranging from dorm-type to apartment type halls. To my knowledge, the units 1, 2 and 3, as well as foothill (and some others), are all freshmen (first year) dorms. Since all exchange students are classified as juniors/third years, no matter what year you’re currently in at Auckland, don’t bother with these. Some university apartments, along with Blackwell and Martinez, give priority to transfer and students second year or above, so I recommend applying for these instead. The newest residential hall is Blackwell, which I also find to be one of the nicer ones from the list. Another option available is the International house (or I-house), which has a separate application process. I-house residents have their own separate dining hall, which, in my opinion, has the best food.

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My side of the room

In my case, I was allocated to a double dorm room in Martinez commons on the south side of campus. When you apply for housing, you select your top five housing choices, with your last choice being any location any room type to get priority housing. It is essential to apply for accommodation before the housing deadline to ensure you get priority housing. This means that the housing department will guarantee that you get a room, although it may not be on your preferences list. For some reason, I received my university login details (required for the housing application) a day after the housing deadline closed. I still managed to get on-campus housing through constantly emailing the housing department, so I’d definitely recommend keeping in contact with the university when something doesn’t work out. This doesn’t only apply for housing, but also for your course enrollments!

Dorm life

Like many of the other students, I wanted to live in a single room with my personal space. Unfortunately, the Berkeley ‘housing crisis’ only allows for double/triple rooms if you’re not trying to break the bank. There’s quite a lot to get used to, and of course, it depends on who your roommate is. Some people never get along with their roommates, and others get on great. You would also need to get used to their different schedules (sleep times, etc.) and their good or bad habits. In this aspect, it’s vital to communicate with your roommate. Other things to get used to are the unisex bathrooms, and people studying in the study lounge late into the night, starting from the second week of classes. Sometimes it’s a struggle to find an empty study room since everyone’s on the grind. Residential halls also tend to offer free events and prizes to its residents. All in all, I highly recommend living in a residential hall or apartment just for the sake of meeting more people!

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Introducing kiwi slang to the locals (through my amazing art)

As you may have realised, there are heaps to get used to here at Berkeley! Don’t be afraid of reaching out and asking for help, there are plenty of resources out there. Feel free to contact me at hlin583@aucklanduni.ac.nz if you have any questions about accommodation or Berkeley in general.

Thanks for reading!

Harvey

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View of Berkeley and the bay

Harvey: First Impressions at UC Berkeley

Before I begin first my post, I’d like to say that if you get into Berkeley, be prepared to work hard. If you’re looking for an exchange experience with a chill workload and have plenty of time to spare for other activities, don’t choose Berkeley. This school is exceptionally academically challenging (at least for engineering) and will push you to your limits. None of my classes have lecture recordings, and the number of resources provided to students is much less than back at home, especially for upper-division (3rd/4th year) courses. But if you’re thinking of exchanging here, you’re probably expecting to be academically challenged… right?

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View from the top of the Campanile

Most people know UC Berkeley or Cal as the number one public university in the United States, and Berkeley is geographically stereotyped as the campus “just 30 minutes’ drive” from San Francisco. However, in reality, the City of Berkeley is a stark contrast from the bustling high rises of San Francisco, being ranked in the bottom 20 for safest cities in all of California. Student housing here is very pricey, and the actual accommodation you get is not of high quality, considering the price you pay. The streets are dirty in comparison to Auckland, and you tend to see many homeless people in the area. That being said, I don’t feel particularly unsafe in the area, and the university offers plenty of services to make sure you get home safe. There’s quite a bit to cover here on these topics, so I’ll probably return to these in my future posts.

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Welcome to UC Berkeley!

GBO (Transfer Edition)

The first date on which the semester starts, according to the academic calendar, marks the first day of GBO (Golden Bear Orientation). As an exchange student, I attended the same orientation program as the other exchange students, rather than first-year students. Unlike UoA, where there isn’t a specific timeframe for people to transfer into the university, Berkeley transfer students typically move after the end of their 2nd year. Since I am also living on campus, my orientation group also consisted of people living in the same building as I was. This is great for meeting people that you’re probably going to see around a lot in the same building. I found this week to be quite enjoyable and met many friends that I now hang out with quite often. The activities sometimes ran until midnight but aren’t all compulsory, apart from the ‘bear pact’, which everyone must attend. Even though they are not compulsory, I recommend visiting some of the events just for the sake of meeting new people.

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GBO Group 607! (or what’s left of it by the end of the week)

Furthermore, as part of the transfer-student orientation, we can choose from a list of companies to attend a company tour or a tour of the Bay Area. Make sure you check the dates to see when the form releases, since spots from the well-known companies fill up very quickly! There are some great companies such as LinkedIn, Goldman Sachs, etc., and this presents an excellent opportunity to network. As I couldn’t find a company relating to my studies (I applied late), I visited an Australian architectural company called Woods Baggot, which was quite interesting.

American Football

Having never watched a football game in my life, I attended the opening home match between Cal and UC Davis. As you all know, football culture is huge in America. Hot dog stands line the streets up to the memorial stadium (where the match was being held), and everyone wears some form of Cal merchandise to support their team. I still don’t understand the rules, but it was fun to experience the school spirit!

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Grateful to be sitting in the shade

Overall, the first few weeks have been very full-on, but I have found the experience so far quite meaningful. Keep an eye out for my next blog post to follow my journey here at Cal. Feel free to contact me at hlin583@aucklanduni.ac.nz if you have any questions on the application process or anything in general about the university as an exchange student.

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Tana: Home

Hi guys!

This blog has been especially hard to start writing because I refuse to come to terms with the fact that my exchange is now complete and I am back home in New Zealand. Don’t get me wrong, it feels great to be reunited with my family and friends, but at the same time a little bizarre. In Berkeley, I felt as though that was my new life, and I had gotten so comfortable with my routine. In fact, I think it’s the little things that I’m going to miss the most like walking to class with my friend Amelia or lying down in the glade and admiring the night sky while my mates and I reflected on life. To come to think of it, I have now become very dependent on social interaction and don’t know how I’m going to cope for the next couple of weeks since my friends here are busy studying for exams.

Regardless, I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to go on this exchange and spend the semester studying at UC Berkeley. For any of you who are reading this and still haven’t decided on whether or not you should go on exchange, my advice to you would be to definitely take the plunge. It has been the experience of a life time and I would not trade these past couple of months for anything else!

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Another serene sunset in Berkeley

Not only have I made unforgettable memories and lifelong friends, but I have also obtained a greater passion for my studies and am further motivated to secure a successful career. Next semester, I plan to join more clubs on campus and diversify my skills. Additionally, I have gained a stronger desire to continue travelling and have already started learning Spanish so as to be able to speak four languages! Most importantly though, I adapted to live independently and by doing so, I now have more confidence in myself and my abilities.

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How am I supposed to say bye to such a beautiful campus?

I’m so thankful for the 360 Exchange Program for helping me expand my horizons and attain a new outlook on life.

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My first roommate and newest best friend!

I hope my blogs have given you some useful insight on what to expect at UC Berkeley. Thank you all for reading and to those of you who have emailed me!

So long!

-Tana

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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.

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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.

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Top of Nevada Falls
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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.

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Post-surf
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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.

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Tristan Thompson trying to focus while the entire crowd “boos” him
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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.
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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.

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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!

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We got free shirts at the Basketball game!
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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.

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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.

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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.

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UCLA
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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.

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UCLA
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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!).

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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!

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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