36 Hours in Berkeley: COVID-19 Edition

Berkeley looks a bit different without its students milling around and filling the streets coming to and from lectures. That being said, this college town located just across the Bay from one of the most well-known cities in the world is relying on its local charm and beautiful nature to allow students and residents alike to adventure in a COVID conscious way. 

FRIDAY

  1. Sip and Stroll 3:30 p.m.Studying at Strada

Coffee shops are a staple of Berkeley’s culture with minimal chain restaurants and family-owned stores aplenty, it can be hard to choose from the amazing selection of cappuccinos and matcha lattes. Cafe Strada, a 30 second stroll from the UC Berkeley campus is a Cal favorite where on an average day you can see students and faculty alike working alongside one another in their beautiful outdoor seating. Once you’ve grabbed your caffeinated beverage of choice, take the long trek across the street to see the beauty of the glass Music Library and through Faculty Glade you might just catch students rolling down the grassy hill in hopes of a 4.0. Journey alongside the critters of Strawberry Creek stopping to gaze at the 307-foot clock and bell tower against the city skyline of San Francisco across the bay. read more

Involve Yourself On Campus

In high school, I longed for the “freedom” that college would bring to my life. I wanted to finally have the liberty to stay up as late as I wanted, go to limitless parties, and become independent from the structured life my parents imposed on me. Once I moved into college, I had the chance to do all of these things. I went from participating in countless extracurriculars, taking extra different classes, and playing sports to taking fewer units and participating in no campus clubs. Despite my extra free time this lifestyle granted me, my body felt just as tired as before and my stress remained equal. I failed to understand why I felt this tired and why more rest failed to help. I quickly found myself questioning why my treasured freedom failed to live up to expectations and I started to long for my busy high school schedule once again.  read more

My Journey to Graduating in Six Semesters

Going going… graduated!

I sat at a desk in front of my beloved 13 inch laptop, my companion through these past three years of college. With my cursor cautiously placed over the send button, I reconsidered my decision one last time. The email I hesitated to send contained a request to change something Berkeley calls your “Expected Graduation Term”, or “EGT” for short. More important than the words in the email was the attachment: a signed and dated form confirming my request to graduate in Spring of 2021, an entire school year early. A week later my request was confirmed.

Once in a while, students decide to graduate early from four-year universities like UC Berkeley. Oftentimes, people don’t know that this is possible! Interestingly, there are few rules about how many semesters you must complete to graduate from UC Berkeley. Instead, there is a set of more specific regulations about how much coursework you must complete to graduate– a subtle distinction. The structure of these regulations (and many major program’s class schedules) results in most UC Berkeley students graduating in four years, or eight semesters. Some a little more, some a little less.

I study Geography, which unlike some majors on campus doesn’t have many prerequisite courses. It also doesn’t require that you complete the three prerequisites it does have in any particular order. As a result, I was able to begin taking upper division courses intended for juniors and seniors in my third semester. For lots of majors, that’s just not possible. Many of my Geography courses not only count towards my major, but also towards distribution aka “breadth” requirements. I started at Cal with about a sixth of the total units (a metric for counting coursework completion) I needed to graduate, which also helped. Having these credits was a point of privilege, since students whose schools don’t offer the AP and International Baccalaureate courses I took lack the opportunity to obtain them.

However, if you are someone who comes in with extra credits and you pick a major where it’s possible, you could end up done with your graduation requirements before four years are up. For me, knowing I could was the biggest factor in deciding to graduate early. Another important reason was that while Berkeley has done an amazing job of helping students find communities online, missing my friends and housemates made me realize that I feel academically ready to graduate, and that leaving behind my friends is what deters me. That said, not everyone feels that way, and not everyone should graduate early! If you think it sounds like a crazy, bad idea for you, it probably is. This isn’t blanket advice, it’s just another option. I am incredibly lucky to have this opportunity, but I had to give up my dreams of double majoring, ascending to club president, and walking across the stage with my friends in order to do it. Still, I know that for me it was the best decision I could make. This Fall I’ve decided to apply to Master’s programs in Europe, where I have close family and have always wanted to attend school. I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I am of the opinion that no matter how many years you’ll spend at Berkeley, they’ll be years you won’t forget! read more

Becoming best friends with my random roommates

It was the summer of 2018. On a peaceful afternoon, my phone buzzed, and the ringtone indicated that I received a new text message:  “Hello Annika and Jade. This is Crystal, and I am from LA. We are going to be roommates next semester”. I immediately sat up straight in my chair and searched for “Crystal” and “Annika” on all the social media platforms. 

Let me explain. You see, I decided to move from New York to California for college because I wanted to experience the west coast. Although I was excited to become independent, I was nervous about finding a community here since I was the only one from my high school to come to Berkeley. There was a Facebook group for all the new students to post introductions and find roommates. But I did not feel like a five sentence paragraph and a few photos were sufficient for me to decide if I want to live with someone for a whole year. I chose to let fate decide and go random with roommate selection, meaning I filled out a survey about my habits and Berkeley Housing paired me up with other people with similar lifestyles. So when Crystal texted, I was eager to learn more about these girls that were going to be my first two friends in Berkeley away from home. We briefly talked about our hobbies and moved on to enjoy the rest of our senior year summer.  read more

Virtual Greek Life

When I got to Cal, one thing I was really excited about was joining Greek Life. My cousins were in Greek Life when they were in college, and they’re still friends with girls from their sorority even now in that they are in their 30s. They inspired me to go through recruitment and find my own life-long friends. After I rushed, my sorority house became my second home during my freshman year. I had so many amazing experiences and Greek Life was one thing that really helped me balance UC Berkeley academics with a social life that made my college experience feel well-rounded. I never imagined that the experiences I was having in my sorority as a freshman would only last one year.

Now, I live in my sorority, but it doesn’t feel the same as it did when I would visit my friends in the house last year. There are less than 20 women living in a house made for 50. Besides the women living in the house, I don’t get to see any of the amazing friends I made last year. The social events are online movie nights, work outs, and game nights, which are all fun, but aren’t the same. I miss my sorority house being a place where I could escape from any stress and just hang out with my friends.

Something that keeps me excited about Greek Life are the new members we recruited this Fall. They attend every online event and are really excited about the house. Even though they don’t get the same experience that I had last year, they’re just happy to be in the house and meet all the new people, even virtually. They remind me to make the best of every situation, even if I long for last year’s excitement. I’m excited for them to be able to come to the house and eventually have in-person events in the future.

Even if things are so different than last year, and I miss all of the fun I had as a freshman at Cal, I’m still so glad that I joined a sorority. The friends that I made last year keep me busy during a pandemic that can sometimes feel lonely. My sorority house gave me an opportunity to move back to Berkeley rather than stay home this semester. Even in a pandemic, I’ve gotten to meet so many new girls through recruitment that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. A lot of good things in my life now are a result of the friends and choices I made last year through Greek Life, and I am so grateful for that.

The Best Beaches by Berkeley

If you are choosing to attend Berkeley because of the awesome location, I totally second that decision. We are so lucky to have both the urban vibe of the city and the peaceful escape to nature in the Berkeley hills. Even better, while we are not quite located  near the beach, we have access to some fantastic spots, many of which I have been visiting my whole life growing up locally.

I think one of the best outings you can have during the pandemic is going to the beach by yourself or with your household. Even in the colder months, the ocean water is so healing, the sunshine peeks out every so often, and perhaps you can even arrange a socially distant hang-out with folks outside your household!

If you have access to a car, here are some of my favorite spots within two hours drive from Berkeley:

Capitola

The sunset over the colorful condos at Capitola

Just south of Santa Cruz you’ll find Capitola, the tiny village-by-the-sea, which is just a few walkable blocks of stores and restaurants. On one side, you will also find colorful vacation condos which are perfect for a fun photo shoot. My family and I used to stay in a beachside motel here every winter and you can stay entertained here for a full day. I’m also an avid, albeit amateur surfer, and this is my favorite local wave to surf. It’s a great spot if you wanna learn because the water is gentler here.

Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay

About an hour away, you have to check out the  charming and foggy town that is Half Moon Bay (HMB!) If you venture to the north end, you can spot a huge white “golf ball” on the bluffs over Pillar Point Harbor. My first memories here were for family beach days, but I’ve since rediscovered this natural space because it is the closest strip of land to Mavericks, one of the biggest waves in the world! If you head out between December and March, there is a good chance you can spot some of the world’s most fearless surfers taking on waves up to 60 feet!

Stinson Beach, Marin County

If you’ve ever ventured to Mt. Tamalpais or Muir Woods, you might have also stumbled by this beautiful beach which honestly takes my breath away during sunset, every time. A lot of folks make a whole day trip out of the journey and hike in the local state parks, then take a dip at Stinson after! It is a tiny town so the weekends get incredibly packed, so I recommend going on a weekday or evening to avoid the traffic.

If you are like me and do NOT have access to a car

If you are comfortable taking public transportation, you can work your way to Ocean Beach (or Baker Beach, just north!) in the city. You can either BART, then transfer to the SF MUNI train/local bus, or if you want to get active you can bring a bike to finish the journey.  Baker Beach is a fan favorite because it has the most stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge which really makes you feel lucky to be a local! Make sure to leave time for a stroll through the Sunset or Richmond Districts, the hip neighborhoods that border the beaches.

I’ve left out my very favorite spots because a local can’t give away all her secrets, but I do hope you get out to the sand and sea for a much needed recharge this quarantine season!

The Big C

The Big C is a key symbol of the university, shining down from the hillside over our campus. It’s queen bee yellow color radiating Cal spirit and pride. However, believe it or not, it hasn’t always been there. This 60 foot block C was built back in 1905 by the classes of 1908 and 1907, replacing a tradition of division with a symbol of unity. Before the C, every year on Charter Day the freshman and sophomore classes would meet on the hill in an event which became known as The Rush. As the rest of campus came together to celebrate the founding of the university, the freshman would fight to paint their class numbers on Charter Hill where the sophomores would be waiting, ready to do anything to prevent them from succeeding. This tradition was dangerous, as many students were thrown down the side of the hill in the fight, read more

Finding the Right Note: Making Music in Berkeley

Is there a place for making music in college? Or is it just a fun hobby that eventually fades away with time? Growing up, I always felt that music was destined to be in my future. My parents raised me to play piano, sing, and write music. When I was applying to college, I was conflicted as to what kind of major I should choose: something practical, analytical, and career based, like a social science? Or something more niche that I was passionate about? Ultimately, I came into Berkeley intending to be a political science major, but still determined to continue my interest in music.

Once I started my first semester at Cal, I had difficulty seeing where performance fit in my busy schedule, which was centered around school and professional development. During orientation week, I was able to listen to the musical creations of one of Berkeley’s popular clubs, Songwriting at Berkeley, which brings together musicians of all backgrounds in the common interest of songwriting. Unfortunately, the club met on Wednesday nights which conflicted with my other commitments.

Luckily, there were more opportunities for my passion to take form than I had initially expected. From my many years in local show choirs, my next pursuit was joining the UC Women’s Chorale, an all-women choral group performing at various Berkeley events that is part of the UC Choral Ensembles. My first two semesters in this group really opened my eyes to the sheer number of performing groups and musical offerings happening on campus every year.

This fall, I decided to switch from choral style singing to I’d never tried before: a capella singing. With the craze that the Pitch Perfect movie series created in the 2010s, instrument-less singing became a hot topic on college campuses, but the oldest groups date back to the 1870s. Here at Berkeley there are over 15 a capella groups, and I was fortunate enough to join the California Golden Overtones, Berkeley’s all-women group known for its diverse genres and strong female themes.

To my surprise, music is critical to Berkeley’s culture, and you probably couldn’t find such a diverse scene anywhere else. Our campus is actually home to an incredible open-air amphitheater called the Hearst Greek Theater, which has housed performers like Tom Petty, Ed Sheeran, Sara Bareilles, and many more. I actually had the opportunity to hear Hozier and Lana del Rey play in fall 2019, which were awe inspiring and affordable opportunities. Additionally, Rasputin and Amoeba Records are two music stores located on historic Telegraph Avenue accessible for students to browse modern and classic records.

At the beginning of my sophomore year this year, I decided to make the leap and pursue a double major in Music. Despite the challenges of school during a pandemic, I’m happy that I made the choice to study something that isn’t in the traditional college path, but is still something I love. Music abounds at Berkeley, you just need to know where to look for it. I encourage you to see what role music plays in your life, and follow your musical passions, both great and small.

Am I Anxious or Do I Have COVID-19?

This quarantine season has taught me that I am a much more paranoid and anxious person over very trivial matters than I believed myself to be. As of recent, the weather in Berkeley has been warm and dry and I have been forced to stay inside my apartment, which has the oldest carpet a living being has ever seen, due to quarantine. I am allergic to dust (thanks Dad) and so if a room is dusty, I will cough and my throat will be very irritated. I am also sensitive to dry air, which will also cause me to cough and my throat to be very irritated. Logically, my coughing is due to the perfect combination of dry air and dust floating around the room. However, my illogical and paranoid brain led me to believe that I had COVID-19: “Were there COVID germs on my boba straw? It had to be the boba straw.” I warned my housemates that the dry air and dust could be the culprit but I could not convince myself. So, in a state of panic, I called the 24-hour advice nurse.  read more

How to Maintain your Productivity as a Cal Student

Academic courses at UC Berkeley, the top public university in the world, are already rigorous enough…what happens when you can’t focus OR get easily distracted? How can you AS A STUDENT maintain productivity to be successful in YOUR courses? Well, you’re in the right place. I’ve got the answers for you.

Getting that A+ is easier when your productive!

Before we dive into the secrets of maintaining your productivity as a UC Berkeley student, feel free to take some time to think about the “time consumers” (ANYTHING that takes up your time) and distractions that currently happen in your everyday life. These can include the time that you spend on social media (TikTok, Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, etc.), the time you explore the internet/watch television, or the time you end up wasting by playing games. There are many distractions out there, but concentrate specifically on your own time consumers. Feel free to list them out on a piece of paper….Now, think of the commitments that you are involved in. Whether these are your extracurriculars, such as student organizations/committees, your employment at a company, or the time that you spend developing relationships with your friend or a loved one. This is the 1st phase in maintaining your productivity (there will be a total of 2 phases). read more