To most people, the terms “study abroad” and “trying new things” go hand in hand. Before I even set foot in the UK, I knew that this semester would be full of “firsts”. Figuring out a new country, traveling around Europe, and making friends with people completely different from me was all to be expected. What I did not anticipate was turning my extracurricular life upside down. Instead of joining the same activities that I enjoy at Cal – Ultimate Frisbee, wind ensemble, or even being a student ambassador – I joined the University of London Mountaineering Club.
Hello UC Berkeley! I have the pleasure of writing this blog entry while sitting in my flat in London. I am a sophomore on exchange through the brand new Sophomore Semester program at our very own British version of Berkeley. This is an exciting year for the London ACCENT center, which hosts study abroad programs for a few US schools including Berkeley, USC, and Wash U (though classes are unique to each school). Traditionally, our university has offered a freshman study abroad program called “Global Edge” at the center, but for the first time there is two other programs also being offered, Sophomore Semester and the Global Management Program. In this blog entry, I would like to write a little bit about each program and the types of UC Berkeley students they serve.
In this history of this blog, there has been quite a few editions of the “hidden gems at Berkeley” post. As I’m just wrapping up my freshman year, I’d like to add on to the tradition by sharing my own findings. So without further ado, here is insider’s tour on hidden but beautiful locations on campus.
- The Women’s Faculty Building. I actually take all my tours on this unconventional but beautiful route. Though students aren’t allowed in the actual building (it’s used for faculty functions), there is a tranquil garden out front with several benches that I love to read in. Not many students know about this place, and on a sunny spring day it can be a spectacular place to get some peace and quiet.
- The Anthropology Library. Located on the second floor of Kroeber hall, the Anthropology Library is an adorable library that most students don’t know about. The library has a large main room, with both work tables and couches surrounded by sunny windows and plants.
- The meadow behind East Asian Library. This area, while gazed upon by many students studying in East Asian, is not frequented by many. One of the last truly undeveloped areas on campus, this forest-lawn hybrid hosts trees, benches, and even mini hiking trails. Perfect spot for a picnic!
I’ll end my list there, since I don’t want to give away all my spots! Incoming students: take time to explore our campus. There is so much more to Berkeley than Moffitt and GBC (you’ll know what I mean soon).
I have had many incoming students on my tours as me for advice for UC Berkeley freshman. This is a hard question to answer – being a large research university, opportunities at UC Berkeley are nearly endless. No two paths are identical, and it is impossible to generalize life at Cal. This being said, I have one recommendation that applies university to all incoming freshman – take a freshman seminar. Why? Here’s a few reasons.
- Freshman seminars are an opportunity specially designed for incoming students. Most freshman classes are large, and connecting with professors, while not impossible, can prove difficult. On the other hand, seminars connect you directly with a professor through an intimate setting. These 1 unit courses have no more than 15 other students in them. Your professor will not only know you by name, but get to know your interests and aspirations.
- You will be able to connect with other first year students who share your interest. Freshman seminars are offered in almost every department at UC Berkeley – hosting a range of options from Biology to History. Being a part of a seminar provides you with a way to network with other students who, most likely, will be your classmates for 4 years. Through an intellectual setting, freshman seminars are a great way to make new friends.
- Freshman seminars allow you to explore a topic without the pressure of a 4 unit graded course. Last semester, I took a linguistics seminar with Professor Lin out of pure curiosity. What is linguistics? I had no idea. Professor Lin walked by 10 student seminar through the basics of linguistic analysis, as well as introducing relevant topics of the day. She inspired me to take a (much more intense) Ling 100 class this semester, and possibly major or minor in the discipline. Without this freshman seminar, I would have been too nervous to explore outside my comfort zone.
All these reasons not enough? Sometimes the professor will bring in donuts!
As a new freshman, walking through the UC Berkeley clubs fair can be intimidating. Our campus holds a literal gluttony of opportunity, seemingly offering every niche student organization in existence. Many of these clubs and teams compete at the top of their level, and it was unnerving to think how I would fit into the program. Luckily, I found my place in the inclusive community of the Pie Queens, Cal’s Women’s Club Ultimate team.
The Pie Queens are run unlike most other Cal club sports. Since ultimate frisbee is not a sport typically offered at high schools, no prior experience is expected. In the fall, the program works on a no-cut basis, with any UC Berkeley student being invited and encouraged to join. Rookies play alongside experienced athletes who teach and encourage new players, working 1 on 1 to develop skills and strategy. We do everything any club sport at Cal does: travel to tournaments, attend socials and outings, and train under world-class coaches (some of whom are literally on the U.S. world’s team). This model of inclusivity and encouragement is vital to the development of widely successful spring “A” team, who go on to play at the college national championships. A no-cuts spring “B” team continues to play competitively, offering a perfect environment to continue learning developing skills.