I never actually had the privilege of visiting UC Berkeley before I submitted my SIR. So when the time came to choose a dorm I was completely in the dark. I tried to do all the research the Internet allowed me to do but at the end of the day websites can’t really do justice when making a decision about which residence halls to choose. I thus made my decision randomly, letting the decision lie with the gods above. Then one fine day the housing algorithm spat out Unit 3- Triple as my dorm/room assignment. Immediately I was concerned. Live with two other people? That sounded daunting to say the least. Most of my summer was spent wondering whether my room situation would be overwhelming.
When I got in to Berkeley and joined the Facebook group for the class of 2016, I remember hearing about ‘Cal Day’. Being international has its limitations and one of those was not having the faintest clue about what Cal Day really was. I saw some pictures, liked some enthusiastic Facebook posts and got the e-mails but I really could not grasp what Cal Day really was.
My freshman year at Berkeley I decided to express my love for this school by becoming a campus ambassador. Part of this job entailed organizing Cal Day. Once again I faced this mysterious day. Cal Day it turns out is a massive open house at UC Berkeley where the whole university comes alive and every student group takes part. A whole year later I was setting up for my first Cal Day.
This Spring Break my best friend came to visit me all the way from Cambridge in the UK. It was interesting because while I had shown my parents around the city before I had yet to share this place with someone similar to me in views and age. When he arrived, he brought with him a preconception of what Berkeley was. Being the 5th most reputable school in the world means that most people have heard about our academic prowess, but it also means that Berkeley has a reputation to uphold in terms of its non-academic culture. Berkeley’s counter culture protests of the 60s, liberal ideologies, and great intellectual movements are all legendary. Berkeley the city should not be held independently of Berkeley the school. The city, while incredibly diverse, revolves around the school and is very much a college town. I personally feel it is a symbiotic relationship where the school gains its vibrancy from the city and vice versa.
It is notoriously well known that America is a country that depends on cars. If you want to travel around the Bay Area you could use the BART but to really take advantage of it, it is great to have a car. Unfortunately as an international student this poses a bit of a conundrum. Sure we can drive on our international licenses for 6 months but afterwards we need to get a license. Fortunately, though, the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) is located just a short bus ride away from campus. It took me a while to muster the strength to go give the various tests but there isn’t anything too difficult about the process. The only advice I would have is to know the rules! California has some driving rules that are different from other states and definitely very different from other countries. Having just very recently gotten my license, I am super excited to begin renting cars and going on road trips throughout the state, maybe even venturing outside of California.