Applying for housing is one of the most socially stressful that freshmen have to think about. Am I going to find friends in my floor? What if I don’t know anyone going to Cal and will be assigned a random roommate? Will anyone I live with have the same major as I do? What if my roommate and I don’t get along? In a sense, freshman are almost completely starting over with their social circles when they start college, but Cal has an incredible and unique solution to this issue: Theme Programs.
A theme program is where students live on the same floor and take a seminar with people with similar interests and identities at them. At Cal we have seven theme programs: African American Theme Program (AATP), Asian Pacific American Theme Housing (APATH), Casa Magdalena Mora (Latinx/Hispanx program), Global Environment Theme House (GETH), Unity (LGBTQ+ house), and Women and Science and Engineering (WiSE). I had the incredible experience of living in WiSE for my first year at Berkeley, and I think that it caused me to grow immensely as a feminist, STEAM major, and leader. The most attractive thing to me about WiSE was that the people on my floor would be interested in the same subjects as myself. If we are all pursuing STEAM-related fields, we’ll all take similar classes and like a lot of the same things. I’d also get the benefit of a seminar based on female empowerment, and as a feminist that was really important to me. Then as the semester went on, our community became much more than that. Now, it is a thriving community of strong women who support and take interest in each others lives. As a group, we are trying to better the community of gender minorities in STEAM, as well as prepare ourselves for our own careers. We’ve had panels of women in STEAM industries, assignments on resume building, and even a workshop on wage negotiation and gender.