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!


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.

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?!

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.

Classroom in the Chou Hall
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.

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

Thanks for reading 🙂


Tana: Accommodation at UC Berkeley

I am currently sitting on my bed on a rainy (Yes, it rains in California) Sunday night, looking out at the city lights. I can’t believe that it has been exactly one month since I arrived in the States. I have done so much in the past month, and yet it feels like I’ve only been here for two weeks.

For my first blog post I would like to talk about accommodation because it was something that I was very worried about before coming on the exchange.

UC Berkeley has several housing options available for exchange students depending on their individual preferences, all of which I researched before making my decision. I encourage you to do the same, but I would like to make this blog about the international house (i-house) which was where I chose to reside for the next few months.

Taken at the i-house retreat


To live at the i-house, you must fill out an application a couple months before your intended stay. From what I remember, it wasn’t too extensive but it did require an essay, asking you to explain why you wanted to be a part of this community.

My suggestion would be to apply as soon as the applications are available because the rooms fill up fast. In fact, I was one of the first people to fill out my application and was bumped up to a premium room on the top floor.


As you do your research, you’ll learn that the i-house is located on Piedmont Avenue which is the home of all the fraternity and sorority houses here at Berkeley. It is also a two-minute walk from the Haas School of Business which is incredibly handy for me.

i-house entrance


Based on your application, the i-house admissions team will try their best to pair you with a roommate who has similar sleeping habits and tidiness preferences.

I am sharing my room with a girl from Hong Kong who is also studying at Haas. Although it is a little weird at first to share your personal space with a stranger, it’s another great learning curve that adds to the exchange experience.

Hands down though, the best part of our room is the incredible view from the window. We are one of the few lucky people here at i-house who get a view of the whole campus, the bay and the golden gate bridge!

My side of the room
View from my window


As a resident, our meal plan is included in the accommodation fees. For the Spring Semester, I have 216 meal swipes loaded onto my Cal ID Card which is more than enough since I plan on spending some of my weekends out of town.

All meals here are buffet style and we are free to go back for more food as many times as we like.

During the week, they serve three meals a day, and on the weekends, they offer brunch and dinner.

The chefs serve a variety of options for every meal, to accommodate all dietary needs. Now, to answer the question you’ve been burning to know the answer to- yes, the food is delicious! In fact, if you don’t want to take my word for it, you can ask anyone here at UC Berkeley; i-house is campus-famous for their great food!

Dining hall on Chinese New Years


The sense of community here at i-house is simply the cherry on top. Whether it be walking down the hallway, or waiting for the elevator, you’re bound to see a smiling face which makes being away from home a whole lot easier.

Additionally, most of the people here are international students who are all in the same boat as you, so you know you’re not alone.

The international house also offers retreats, coffee nights, Zumba classes, and multiple other events to help you meet new people, make the most of your limited time here, and ensure you always have something to do.

Taken at the i-house retreat
Taken at the Sunday supper event

All in all, I am extremely glad I chose to live at the i-house because it has exceeded all of my expectations and introduced me to some incredible people from all around the globe.

If you are considering living here and have any questions or simply want to know more, feel free to email me at

Thanks for reading! 🙂


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!


Hae Yeon: Final Thoughts

This final post is going to be a collection of final thoughts, tips, and anything. Actually, I’ve ended up extending my exchange to a year, so it won’t be my final thoughts per se, but it will be the last post of the semester.

Finals & “DEAD WEEK”

Similarly to how UoA has exam study leave after lectures finish, UCB has what they call Reading, Review, and Recitation (RRR) Week, a.k.a. DEAD WEEK. It is a week before exams for students to prepare for their exams, or cram a whole semester worth of work because you know what they say, diamonds are made under pressure.

Unlike UoA however, final exams are all scheduled in the following week.

Some of the libraries, like Moffitt, are open 24-hours, so you’re likely to find severely sleep deprived students camping out there. It’s also very competitive to find seats so, be warned. I stuck to studying in my room or the lounge in my residence hall. Instead of having final exams as such, I had a number of final projects, which were just as, if not more, time-consuming.

It was also ironic how I was reviewing ‘insomnia’ for my ‘Psychology of Sleep’ class at 2AM, depriving myself of sleep. Sorry Matt (my professor). I tried.

Despite the all-nighters, I did pretty well.

Packing Up

The residence halls have a strict policy about checking out times. Of course you are free to leave as soon as your exams are finished, but they have a specific time on the day after finals end: if you stay any longer than that time, it was $100 per hour overstayed. Over winter break, you are allowed to leave your belongings in your room, since you’ll be returning there. So people would just take their clothes, laptop etc and leave things such as bedding.

 School’s Out!

On the final night, we decided to celebrate the end of our first semester at Berkeley by going to an escape room (OMESCAPE), in which we figured out the laws of time-travelling with 8 minutes to spare.

Go Bears! (Of course)

We then went on to karaoke; to cry, to celebrate, I don’t know. But, we had a blast with our repertoire which consisted of Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Hispanic songs.

End of our first semester! Thank you, next
The much-needed roommate photo

Overall, my semester at Berkeley has been a wild one, and I wouldn’t change it for anything else. I’m super grateful for the friends, experiences and opportunities that I’ve had. Like I mentioned earlier, I will be returning to Berkeley for another semester (!!!) which I’m sure will be another adventure, and you know how to reach me for any advice (see first blog post).

Before I say bye for the last time, I shall leave you with some last-minute tips:

  • US prices don’t include taxes. Remember that, so you don’t get confused at the counter.
    • Might be worth noting San Francisco also has one of the highest tax rates, so.. if you’re wanting to buy a new laptop or something, try somewhere else.
  • TIPS. I must admit, I’m still not quite used to the tipping culture here but the general rule of thumb is this: if they have table service, you tip. If not, it’s not necessary.
    • When you receive the receipt, it already tells you how much you can tip at the bottom. For example, 15% = $XX, 20% = $XX. You indicate how much you want to tip your waiter and you write the total at the bottom. I generally gave them 15%.
    • It may feel strange feeling like you have to tip, but remember, the tips are usually how the employees earn their money, and hopefully, their service is that good that you don’t feel hesitant about tipping.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading up on my Berkeley experiences, I’m glad to have been able to share a little bit of that with y’all.

If you’ve applied or confirmed to be going on an exchange, kudos to you. You’re going to have a blast. It may not be all that you expect, but then it could be more. Either way, enjoy the ride. If you’re thinking about going on an exchange, I strongly recommend it. As cliché as it sounds, I’ve learnt so much and feel that I’ve grown as a person in a way that would only be possible in Berkeley. Thank you to 360 International, and UC Berkeley for this opportunity and I cannot wait to be back in 2019.

But for now, some well-needed rest with my family back in New Zealand!

Thank you. There are no other words


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.