Studying “abroad” from home

Katia standing in front of the University of Cape Town on first day of school.
My first day of school featuring Sarah Baartman Hall and the cloud-covered mountains!

This past semester, I got to experience school in the most incredible way possible, studying at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa through the UC Education Abroad Program. It was more than a dream, and although I’ve had my heart set on this trip for six years, it still managed to exceed all my expectations. For context, while South Africa is a less traditional study abroad destination, I was drawn there because it is perfectly nestled at the southwestern tip of the continent, surrounded by both the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. It has an identical and opposite latitude to Los Angeles so the climate is just like California, the university is the best in Africa, and it frames the stunning 3500 ft Table Mountain as the ideal place to get outdoors while still having the urban city lifestyle. Needless to say, the seven weeks that I studied and lived in South Africa were the highlight of my life, and fly 10,000 miles home in late March when the US issued a global travel advisory was sad and scary! read more

Secondhand Shopping

Ah, yes second-hand shopping, a favorite past-time of mine. When I realized that neither my wallet nor my sustainable-living habits matched my excessive shopping habits, I found a solution to my problems in thrift shopping. I spend too many days and hours scouring the various Goodwills of the world, and I can definitively rank my favorite local shops for all your thrifting adventures.

#5 Crossroads (Shattuck and College locations)

This would be better put as a consignment store than a thrift store because they only buy nice brands and vintage pieces, but hello it’s all about the sale section! If you’re just getting used to secondhand shopping, this is an easy place to start, but be mindful about how much you’ll dish out for something. A used dress isn’t always worth $30, so I recommend only going for high quality or clearance. read more

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

About once a week I try something different and break from my routine. Maybe I decide to skip a class (don’t worry, I watch the recorded lecture online!), I walk the longer route to school, or I go to a cafe that is a little off the beaten path. Being in college is so fun, so fleeting, but it doesn’t help that as our schedules fill up, we forget to stop and smell the roses. Yet, I think the most precious moments that give personality to Berkeley are all the moments that happened by chance when I took the path less traveled. read more

A Definitive Ranking of My Housing Experiences

International House lit up in blue and yellow lights as viewed from my co-ops sundeck
A view from one home to another: from my co-op’s backyard you can see I House!

Renting my own off-campus apartment? Been there. 

The quintessential freshman dorm experience? Shout out to Unit 1 Deutsch Floor 4! 

The Co-Ops? Spent a lovely summer in Berkeley in a house.

And now, I’m residing in International House, back to dorm-style living. While many Berkeley students try to stick with one residence to reduce the amount of moving, I have not exactly taken this approach. From experiencing these four very different, unique housing situations so far, I wanted to comment on my experience in each! read more

Why I love the College of Chemistry

I study chemistry in the College of Chemistry, a college only home to about 800 undergraduates and several hundred graduate students. Because of it’s ranking (it truly is the strongest department in the world) and because of it’s intimacy as one of the smallest colleges on campus. I chose to become a student here, and my time in the College of Chemistry has been my defining experience so far.

In the heart of the College of Chemistry complex.

For one thing, unlike the majority of students at Cal, we come into our majors declared, meaning there’s a little less apprehension about our course of study. The prerequisite courses- Chem 4, physics, and math- may appear as large lectures to the average student, but I quickly found my community in my classes, because it’s not uncommon to bounce from lecture to lecture with a peer in your major that has the exact same sequence. Our college has fewer breadth requirements, so while many folks are taking classes from all different subjects, we chemistry kids stick together. Now, as a sophomore, if I meet another sophomore for the first time who tells me they’re also in the College of Chemistry, I’m usually surprised that we haven’t yet met because our college really is that small and community-based. These prerequisite courses sure aren’t easy, but having friends to get through four hour labs and dozens of exams together makes the whole experience just a little less daunting.
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Making easy money as a student!

Are you a student that has spent a few too many dollars at Kingpin donuts and Berkeley boba shops and needs a little extra spending cash? Getting a job can be a big commitment, in fact I’ve tried and failed to juggle multiple paid positions at one time. If you’re looking for a more low-key way to make money, here is an easy way for students to earn some cash.

1. Sign up for studies through the Xlab, which runs experiments through Haas School of Business and the psychology department. As a freshman, I earned something between $500 and $1000 over the year from actively participating in these cool studies. They can be anywhere from hour-long social experiments to four hour experiments in an MRI machine, or with a cap of electrodes on your head. I recommend you skip the short, low paying studies and go for the longer psych studies where you can earn $50+ dollars per study. With the flexibility of the Xlab portal, you can choose from different dates and times to fit in between your busy schedule. Additionally, some of my friends have done contact lens studies through the School of Optometry. If you’re around Pimentel, they always are posting for participants, just know you might have slightly wonky vision one day as they test out different prescriptions. read more

Getting started with research

How does one get a research position at UC Berkeley?

If you’re young and impressionable as I was, you might be led to believe that a coveted research position is near-impossible to get. Perhaps you think the 4.0 students are going to sweep the field before you get a shot, or that no professor is going to want an inexperienced undergraduate in their lab. I, too, had these misconceptions that kept me from putting myself out there until second semester of sophomore year. That being said, I now have an undergraduate research position in a chemistry lab, and I want to share life advice that I’ve acquired among my own triumphs and setbacks. While my experience is not representative of all, hopefully some of this information is helpful as you’re just getting started. read more

The Hunt for the Best Berkeley Sunset

I thought the loveliest sunsets I’d ever witness would be those moments I’ve gazed across the Grand Canyon or watched the orange sun disappear over the beaches of Southern California. Yet the first sunset I watched from the Berkeley hills took my breath away, and two years later, it still does. As a long-distance runner I’ve discovered most these spots from running over the years, but even if you don’t jog to these vistas, exploring these places will give you a much-needed study break.

Photo credits to my friend Sana K. who shared this sunset with me
  1. I’ll start with a classic: the view from Lawrence Hall of Science. You can take the uphill shuttle from Evans Hall directly here. You not only see San Francisco, Oakland, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridge, and the Marin Headlands, but you are also accompanied by fun statues like a DNA helix and a whale!

2. One spot you probably haven’t thought to venture to for sunset is the UC Botanical Garden. Given that it closes at 5, you can only really experience the golden hour in winter, but it’s amazing to watch the cacti, roses, maples, and towering redwoods as they glow in the evening sun. Luckily free with Cal ID, just be sure to arrive before they close doors at 4:30 PM.

3. A little harder to access is this view from halfway up the Fire Trails. You can either take the trail past Strawberry Canyon pool, or follow a series of beautiful steps starting on Orchard Lane off Panoramic Way. I used to come here everyday my freshman year, and it’s an easy 2 mile walk or run.

4. For a longer excursion, work your way over to Indian Rock on Northside for the sunset. This is a popular spot, but I’ve seen it in rain and shine and it never fails to make me grateful to call Berkeley home.

5. One view that gets better through the seasons is from the Clark Kerr Fire Trails. You can get here from behind Clark Kerr’s track, or all the way up Dwight Way until it becomes a steep footpath. If you go now, you’ll be rewarded by a field of wildflowers at the top. You’ll even spot the occasional golden poppy, how much more Californian does it get?

6. Now for my hidden treasure, from the ledge of the Law School. If you climb on the ledge on the south side of the building, you can tiptoe your way to the end and dangle your feet as you watch day turn to night. You won’t be high enough to get a view, but you are  10 feet above ground and there’s some thrill from being on elevated surfaces.

7. If you’ve ever been to a Cal football night game, you know how amazing it is to witness a California Memorial Stadium sunset. When the Bears are up by a couple touchdowns, the Campanile is glowing in the background, and the student section is popping, this sunset is the icing on the cake.

8. One iconic view hasn’t been mentioned, and that’s because I saved our beloved Big C for last. Whether you want to overhear an artist playing at the Greek Theatre, go on a fun date, or swing at the top with the Bay beneath you, this is the spot to be. But, I cheated on this one and my picture is actually a sunrise from the Big C. Although this day was a pain to get out of bed, I was rewarded with some of the most magical skies ever.

I hope you get to venture to these spots soon, and maybe find your own favorite view while you’re at it!