University: University of California Berkeley
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: Literary Studies, Linguistics
Study type: Summer Sessions
Since I still had to go abroad after my studies and I didn’t want to lose a whole semester or even a year, I decided to do a summer session (8 weeks) because I always wanted to study at a US university. I found out about it through the college.contact website on the internet. I then inquired more precisely and was also given great and always very friendly advice. As a result, the application process was not a problem at all, since college.contact was always helpful and questions were always answered immediately. Visit liuxers.com to get information about UR study abroad program.
I chose Residence Hall for my accommodation, thinking I’d probably see more Americans there than at International House. I think that was true, but there were still a lot of international students there. My hallway was 90% occupied by Asians. At first I was a bit shocked by the dorm. The room I shared with a South Korean woman who was very nice was tiny and the bathroom down the hall was ugly, uncomfortable and mostly rather dirty (due to the people using the bathroom have used). I’ve always tried to spend as little time in it as possible. Also, don’t be alarmed, it’s mixed, meaning for both men and women. I wasn’t used to that from the Americans.
Overall, Berkeley is a very liberal place. There is a lot of talking and sitting in cafes and it can also often happen that you see people consuming hash on public streets. Otherwise, life in the dorm is not liberal at all. Especially if you already live alone in Germany, the rules there seem a bit ridiculous. Alcohol is strictly forbidden, whether you are 21 or not. You are only allowed to drink in your room, but only if you don’t have too large amounts and if nobody is under 21 with you (regardless of whether they drink something or not). And the RAs (Residence Assistants) also took it dead seriously with us. From what I’ve heard, it’s seen much more loosely at the I-House. They always had parties, which were probably very funny. The I-House as a building is also much nicer. It has much more of the charm of an elite university. However, the rooms are still a bit smaller than those in the Residence Halls. And the food at Crossroads, the Residence Halls’ dining hall, is said to be better than the I-House, too, although I’ve eaten there once and didn’t think it was all that bad.
I had chosen two university courses in English (The American Novel and Popular Culture and Literature) and that’s enough!! Don’t take any more. I would also advise not to take 2 literature courses like I did. The reading material for 2 courses is almost impossible to do (I almost had to read 2 books every week plus the assignments that you have to do). I actually read or wrote until 2 a.m. every day. It wasn’t always that fun. After all, there is so much to see in California that you should take enough time for it (if possible, I would advise keeping Friday free, because many people do that and then you can do something together).
I liked the courses in different ways. The American Novel was a lecture only, which I found a bit disappointing. Very interesting, but not what I was hoping for. Popular Culture and Literature by Chris Nealon was really great and I would do it again and again. That’s how I imagined college at Berkeley. There was a lot of discussion, a lot of interactive things were done and the lecturer was very enthusiastic. Both courses were twice a week and each 2 hours long.
As I said, on the weekends I mostly went on trips with other international students, for example to San Francisco (which is half an hour away by BART), to Lake Tahoe (you absolutely have to do it, it’s beautiful and has a real sandy beach), to Yosemite National Park, to Las Vegas (which was a bit far -> 13 hours by car!) and many are also to LA. I didn’t travel to Southern California until after the Summer Session because I still had some time.
A few more things about UC Berkeley (or also called Cal). Berkeley has a large and beautiful campus and offers a variety of student services. For example, if you don’t want to walk home alone at night because Berkeley isn’t the safest place to be, you can call BearWalk and someone hired by the uni will come and walk you home. The huge range of sports that you can use as a student is also great. There is actually no sport that is not represented there. I myself worked out in the fitness studio and attended Pilates courses.
What is also very practical is that you have an ID card on which you also have your food points on it. Ie you pay for your food with this card. You can not only pay with it in the Dining Hall, but also in a few cafes (e.g. The Den) and a small supermarket.
Overall, I can recommend a summer session to everyone. However, if you like partying and going out, Berkeley isn’t the perfect place. Of course there are opportunities there too, but if you’re from a big city like me, then Berkeley doesn’t have that much to offer. (although the Blakes on Telegraph evenings were always great fun; also recommended: Jupiter). That was totally fine with me, since I also had so much to do with my courses, but for some Europeans Berkeley was too boring. Also, don’t expect hot California weather in Berkeley. We all froze at the beginning. The weather then got better, but in the evenings it was always cool to cold!! (You couldn’t get out without pants and a sweater). However, if you want to study at a top university, it’s in the right place in Berkeley. I wish everyone who chooses Berkeley a great time and I envy you that you still have it ahead of you.