What Its Really Like to Live in a College Apartment

This summer, I lived in my first college apartment. In my first year, I lived in the dorms, which is the most common option for freshmen at Cal. During my sophomore and junior years, I lived in my sorority house. So, during my first three years, I was living in situations where I was more independent than I was at home. of course, but I still had a lot of help.

In the dorms, I could go to my RA if something was wrong with my living situation and get it fixed pretty quickly. I didn’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning beyond cleaning my side of the bedroom. I ate at the dining hall every single day and never cooked a single thing for myself. My sorority house felt even cushier, with a housekeeper that came every day and an in-house chef that allowed me to continue to not cook or clean for myself. I’m very lucky to have had these experiences and been able to rely on meal plans and cleaning services that made my life as a student a lot easier. This year, however, I decided it was time to move into a more independent style of living, and summer was sort of my intro to what’s in store for me this year. read more

Berkeley activities you need to put on your bucket list

Going to college means having almost unlimited opportunities available to you. With so many things to do at Berkeley – social, professional, and athletic events and opportunities – it can be difficult to decide what exactly to do, which is why students come up with a bucket list of items that they absolutely need to do before college ends. At Berkeley, two items that have to be on that list are picnicking on the glade and eating pizza from The CheeseBoard Collective.
The classic Berkeley experience is having a picnic on the glade. It’s 70 degrees and sunny, the breeze is just right, and you’re surrounded by good vibes while relaxing on one of the prettiest parts of campus. I finally got to experience my first proper Berkeley glade picnic the day after my last final of freshmen year. After grabbing the classic Bulgogi fries and Salmon bowl from Golden Bear Cafe, my roommate and I laid our picnic blanket on the upper part of the glade near the trees. Blasting music from our speaker, we played songs that reminded us of past memories.
Relaxing on the glade with no pressing worries reminded me of days at the beach, when you would just relax with your friends. Instead of the ocean however, we had beautiful views of Doe Library and the Campanile. Surrounding us were more groups, also enjoying the nice afternoon on the glade. From couples having intimate moments to big groups laughing over stories, the Glade is a place for everyone.
The Cheese Board Collective is a world famous pizzeria, bakery, and cheese shop located just a few blocks from campus. It’s the highest-rated pizza place in America according to Yelp and only serves one type of pizza per day, which is vegetarian. Cheese Board is so famous that when my friend from New Jersey came to visit, she requested to eat there because her professor talked about it in class!
I finally got to try Cheese Board this summer with my fellow campus ambassadors Brandon and Lila. While we were waiting in line we struck up a conservation with the people around us. The man standing in front of us was a Berkeley professor from France. We asked him what it’s like teaching students at Berkeley and he wanted to hear our perspective on classes as Berkeley students. We also talked to a couple who were on a road trip from Southern California. They were involved in the health industry and gave my friends some tips on how to succeed in the health industry.

Of course these are just two items for your Berkeley bucket list. There’s so many more things to do at Berkeley – hiking at Clark Kerr fire trails, watching a dance performance, rolling down 4.0 hill, etc – but I highly encourage everyone to start out with a nice picnic on the glade and going to Cheese Board collective pizza. read more

A Love Letter to My Hiring Class (The Tea on Being a UC Berkeley Campus Ambassador)

To my beloved hiring class,

 

We made it! The hiring process, five months of training, Cal Day, and the tours we did in the Spring finally paid off. We made it to the Summer! Now comes the lock-in shifts we have together, the tours we give on the weekdays, working the Visitor Center and Campanile on weekends, and bonding in our downtime by exploring the Bay and Berkeley. 

 

Ambassadors, post training to lead the Campanile operations, May 2022
Ambassadors, post training to lead the Campanile operations, May 2022

This summer has definitely been a challenge for us. For many of us, this is our first real job. We have had to break out of our shells, take on new responsibilities and adapt to what this job brings us on a day-to-day basis. Some of us were asked to become the leaders in the Campanile, running the desks like we saw our LTs and Senior Ambassadors do before us (Shout out to Jimmy for training us). Some of us were tasked with maintaining the behind-the-scenes of the many group tours and GCTs we lead daily (Shoutout to the 101 summer squad). We become the leaders who trained us – some of us ending up on the Leadership Team for the first time (Shoutout to the three new LT: Hailey, Maggie, and Brandon). read more

Cal in the Capital: A Summer in DC

I was never someone who had a plan to study abroad coming into college. I’ve only traveled to a few states, and have never been out of the country, so the idea of going abroad for a few months was never really on my radar. I used to think that instead of going abroad, I would do a semester at UCDC, a program that allows University of California students to study and intern in Washington DC for a semester. But then with the COVID-19 pandemic beginning halfway through my first year of college and impacting the entire following school year, I felt like so much time at Berkeley had been ripped from me already. I had a fear of missing out on the Berkeley experience during my last two years, so I didn’t apply.

Then I found Cal in the Capital. Cal in the Capital is a program through the UC Berkeley Public Service Center that sends a cohort of Cal students to intern in DC for the summer. It’s extremely similar to the UCDC program – just in the summer and without classes. This seemed like the perfect compromise: I wouldn’t miss out on any semesters at Berkeley, but I also would be able to travel and live somewhere new for a couple of months. I applied and got in, and now I’m writing this from my apartment in Washington, DC.

I am halfway through my DC summer and it already feels like time is running out. DC is a place where you can never get bored, there are a million museums, monuments, and concerts to go to. So much good food to try and so many cool people to meet. And having spent my whole life living in California, the East Coast feels like another world (almost as if I’m abroad ;)). So far, I’ve been to three Smithsonian museums, a music festival, all of the major monuments (the Lincoln Memorial was the coolest), and I’ve visited both Maryland and Virginia. I’ve been able to visit the U.S. Capitol as an official guest for my job, which felt very fancy. Even though this may seem like a lot, there is still so much more to explore in DC before the summer ends.

This was just the experience I needed as I near graduation next Spring. My internship has oriented me as I think about a future career and has allowed me to realize that I want to pursue non-profit work in the future. Working a 9-5 four days a week in a big city almost feels like a taste of what post-grad life can be, and it’s not so scary.

Kalysta stands in front of the U.S. Capitol
Kalysta stands in front of the U.S. Capitol

Why ALL FIRST-YEARS Should Do Summer Bridge (coming from a former bridgee!)

Hey there! Congratulations on making it to UC Berkeley! You are about to embark on an amazing four-year journey here. Now, you may be wondering… How can I make the most of my summer? Well, I have got the answer for you! Summer 2021, I was exactly in your situation. I was doing Golden Bear Advising (GBA) and wondering what else can I do to get a head start on creating my Berkeley experience. That’s when I signed up for Summer Bridge at the very last minute. Do I regret it? Absolutely not!

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Wait, Wait, Wait. What even is Summer Bridge? Is it… like an actual bridge? No, silly! (Well, metaphorically yes). Summer Bridge is a six-week program where freshman students can enroll in certain classes to get ahead on their college breadth and/or UC Berkeley’s graduation requirements. 

Summer Bridge allows first-year students to “cross” into college by getting a taste of academic life at Cal. You get hands-on experience in college classes, right before your first official semester. This will allow you to also explore different subjects you may not have had a chance to in high school.

 

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Summer Bridge offers certain classes every summer from a wide range of options. Each summer is unique in its own way through the courses being offered. My bridge experience (Summer 2021, shoutout to the second online cohort!) offered a really cool class called “Lives of Struggle: Minorities Within A Majority Culture” (AFRICAM 27AC) which satisfied my American Cultures requirement.

This class LITERALLY changed my life. Professor Rose Wilkerson was our instructor and she is brilliant! This was the first time I ever took a class in African American studies and Ethnic Studies, as a whole. From there, I ended up deciding to major in Ethnic Studies! Summer Bridge really allows you to explore a multitude of subjects through its classes.

Here are some of the classes being offered (or that have been offered):

  • Anthropology 2AC – Introduction to Archaeology
  • Anthropology 3AC – Introduction to Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • African American Studies 27AC – Lives of Struggle: Minorities Within A Majority Culture
  • Mathematics 32 – Precalculus
  • Statistics 2  – Introduction to Statistics (I took this one too!)
  • Chemistry 32 – Preparation for General Chemistry
  • Art and Humanities C132 – Archiving for Social Justice
  • Theater 5 – Public Speaking
  • Chicano 50 – Introduction to Chicanx History
  • read more

    What’s “relaxing?”

    Since I was 7 I remember being constantly on the move, going from one thing to another. After school, I had gymnastics at least 9 hours a week and was dragged to everything my older sisters had to be at – meetings, doctors appointments, sporting events, etc. My whole life, I haven’t known anything other than hustling. After being knowingly overwhelmed in high school with AP classes, sports, school clubs, and other extracurriculars, I decided that I wouldn’t let myself put too much on my plate when I got to college.  read more

    Keep Dancing Like the Class of 2022: My Years At Berkeley As Described By Taylor Swift Albums

    Before I was a Cal fan, I was a Taylor Swift fan. While our graduation speaker wasn’t Taylor Swift (I almost flew to NYU just to see the queen get an honorary degree), I still have found many valuable lessons in her songs that relate to my time at Berkeley. Most of the time I was jamming to her songs on the way to class, or getting hyped on a Friday night to her catchy tunes. I can see my four years through the eyes and ears of her song lyrics. Every high and low could be remedied somewhat by listening to Taylor’s discography.  read more

    Dear Freshman Me: An Open-Letter to My Freshman Self

    Dear my freshman self, 

    Well, this is going to be a wild ride! Your first year at Cal is full of things you didn’t expect. I know we came in with this idea about college and what it was going to be like. Let me tell you, as your now second-year self, nothing you thought about college is true… well not entirely. Here are the four things you should know coming into your first year here: read more

    Reflecting Upon my Junior Year at Cal

    Along with the passing of May came and went the last month of my junior year at Cal, and the realization that I had only a year before graduation left me nostalgic with so many mixed emotions, and even more self-growth to reflect upon. As someone who spent my first two years of college figuring out who I was and struggling to differentiate that from the ideal college self that I thought I would be, there was a lot that I had to come to accept, the most challenging being that I had to pursue my own career goals to gain my own happiness, even if it diverged from the pre-med student my family wanted me to be. That being said though, this was the first year that I was truly able to explore classes beyond the limited scope of what I thought I had to take, and just barely being able to declare my public health major, that ended involving all the major and minor requirements I’ve been slacking on. But public health is a very broad subject, and my decision to minor in very different topics (Chinese and Education), resulted in me being able to explore fun classes, and take classes that I never thought I would take before. For my public health major, that included classes such as ECON 172 (SubSaharan Africa Case Studies in Economic Development) with Professor Edward Miguel (highly, highly recommended, regardless of your economics background) and a PBHLTH 142 (Introduction to Probability and Statistics in Biology and Public Health) with Professor Mi-Suk Kang Dufour (who by the way traveled all the way from Canada despite the asynchronous platform of the class just to support us before finals), and for my Chinese minor (which I ended up finishing this semester!) that included language courses (100XA and B) with Ms. Liu (which had the best energy with the most fun, loving, and welcoming community anyone could ask for) along with a Buddhism in Contemporary Society course that high school me never would’ve imagined taking. Despite my total number of classes this year totaling at 16, 7 in the fall and 9 in the spring (which, by the way,  is definitely not normal; for reference, a full-time student at Cal only has to take around 3-4 classes depending on what college and major they belong to), because the classes ended up being so interesting and fun, it didn’t feel like 9 classes at all. In fact, I’ve had semesters where I’ve taken four classes and there has been at least one semester that felt worse than this (and that just goes to show how studying something you’re interested in will shape and change your experience at Cal- definitely pursue something you’re interested in!). read more

    Answering Questions and Demystifying Negative Stereotypes as a Campus Ambassador at Cal

    As a Campus Ambassador at Cal, a major part of my job working at the Campanile and giving tours is answering all the questions that our visiting guests, alumni, and students have to offer. That being said, having just worked my 18th tour and 18th campanile shift, I’ve started to notice that with each shift comes very similar patterns in the questions being asked. And because of that, I wanted to discuss the five most frequently asked questions that I have received (with some responses of which may make Berkeley an even more appealing school to you:)).

    “Is it true that Cal has grade deflation? How difficult is it to do well in classes?”

    While grade deflation may have existed before my time at Cal, I have never experienced, nor met anyone who has experienced grade deflation at Cal (just for context, I’ve taken classes ranging from the realm of history to data science to math to chemistry and biology, and despite of the diverse range of classes I’ve taken, I’ve never even heard of grade deflation at cal). In terms of how classes are graded, all the professors on campus are able to choose how they see fit to grade their students. While this does sometimes result in difficult classes, the majority of professors do not want to see their students fail and will instead curve the classes to where the average grade, if it’s a C+ for example, will become a B+, and so forth. Your grade will only be curved up. And with the amount of office hours available provided by your teachers and all of their GSIs (TAs), as well as the 10 HOURS OF FREE TUTORING offered every weekday by our student learning center (the SLC for short) and our residential Hall services (you do not need to live on campus to obtain these services), there’s no way you’ll be able to fail (as I always say on my tours, if you know how and where to look for help; you’re gm bound to succeed!:))

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    “How easy is it to get research positions? Can non-STEM majors do research too? Are undergraduates able to get involved in research at Cal?”

    A lot of people assume because Berkeley is a research university that it is a hard university to obtain research in. While sometimes certain positions may be very competitive, there are so many research opportunities that again, if you know where to look, you should be able to find one to get into! UC Berkeley is really great at providing its undergraduate students accessible research opportunities in every field (whether you want to study, STEM, the humanities, or beyond)- and if you feel unqualified for research, I personally had no research experience at Cal and was still able to get research my first semester freshman year (so trust me, as long as you are passionate enough about whatever research you’d like to join, you’ll have a great chance of getting it; and if not, there are probably a ton of related research opportunities that are also potentially looking for researchers).

    For those who have less experience, I highly recommend ULAB, or the Undergraduate Laboratory at Berkeley Program at Berkeley. There you’ll get to be paired with a few peers to conduct research in fields ranging from cognitive science to the physical and life sciences, and you’ll get credits to do a related study in whatever field you decide to choose. After gaining some experience, I would recommend the most commonly applied one being the Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program (URAP) at Cal, which pairs you with a faculty member to conduct research and build a professional relationship with them (I have friends currently developing COVID vaccines and working with Jennifer Doudna (our CRISPER/gene-editing Nobel laureate!) as I type!). For URAP you’re allowed to apply to work with up to three faculty members per semester, so I would definitely use that opportunity to explore any research that you’re interested in (There are also many research fellowships, summer research opportunities, and major/college-specific research opportunities that you’ll have opportunities to explore later!).

    If this all feels overwhelming, my best suggestion to gaining research experience is emailing professors, TAs, or labs you’re interested in. Especially since most, if not all of them, are currently doing research (and they love talking about their research). One cool thing that I did and highly recommend doing to find research opportunities is just going to the faculty page of your major website; and most of them, especially the STEM majors, have their research hyperlinked in that research (you got this!!!!).

    “How easy is it to find extracurriculars? I’ve heard that clubs are extremely hard to get into.”

    While there are some competitive clubs at Berkeley, choosing what org is best for you really depends on what kind of community you are looking for! Many of the clubs that have more rigorous acceptances may be more professionally centered or performance-based, but there are over 1200+ student orgs on campus (you can find them on Callink and even filter by passion, so you don’t have to look through all of them!), not to mention sports teams, the ASUC or Berkeley’s student government, work-study opportunities, and volunteer groups. And with there being so many, there are definitely very similar clubs with very different levels of difficulty getting in, so it definitely will not be the end of the world.

    “Is Berkeley actually that competitive?” read more