I can still remember the excitement leading up to my first week of my freshman year at Berkeley. Like most other freshmen, my mom and I spent hours shopping through Target, Bed Bath and Beyond and Kohl’s, searching for dorm necessities in all my favorite colors. There was just one twist. Unlike most other freshmen, I didn’t live in the dorms my first year.
Housing at UC Berkeley is unique in that students are not required to live in on campus housing during their first year at school. My freshman year I decided to live in a building called Tellefsen Hall, which serves as a housing option for members of the Cal Band. It was cheaper than living in the dorms, and it seemed like a great way to form an immediate community at Cal. Unlike the dorms, Tellefsen Hall houses students of all grade levels and places students of varying grade levels in the same rooms.
My freshman year at Berkeley, my roommates were comprised of a senior and junior student. While initially, the age gap was a bit shocking and weird to get used to, we became quick friends. They gave me advice on which professors to take classes from, the best places to eat around Berkeley, and the nicest libraries to study in. Laura, the junior, and I decided to remain roommates the following year.
My sophomore year was the year Laura and I became close friends. We baked together in the communal kitchen and visited each other’s hometowns. I followed in her footsteps and became a campus ambassador, and we bonded over giving tours. We had TV nights every week, where we bonded over our love of Jane the Virgin and popcorn. At the end of the semester, I cheered her on at her graduation and cried the day she left for Idaho to start her new job.
Despite being two years apart and being in two different stages of our lives, Laura and I have remained close friends even after her graduation. Earlier this year, she visited me in my hometown for a few days and I got to take her to some of my favorite places and restaurants. Most recently, for spring break, we took a week-long road trip through Oregon and Seattle full of all kinds of adventures. It was a fun way to reconnect after not seeing each other for a few months and allowed us to catch up on everything going on in each other’s lives.
While I didn’t get to have the typical college dorm experience, I am so glad I chose to live off campus my freshman year. My friends that I made that first year span multiple grade levels, and some are already graduated and working real jobs. Through them, I have learned about life as an upperclassman, life after graduation, and the importance of maintaining long distance friendships. They have been there to guide me every step of the way during my time at Cal and have been some of my biggest supporters. I feel lucky to have such amazing friends like Laura, and to have had such a unique housing experience during my time at Cal.