University of California Berkeley Review (7)

University of California Berkeley Review (7)

North America


The International House is a mixed lot. The bad: the equipment is more like a youth hostel and the food is acceptable – but nothing more. Alternatively, there is the possibility to pack a lunch package for lunch in the morning if there is no chance to participate in lunch due to courses etc. The Residence Halls are much more spacious here and the Meal Plan makes it possible to eat anywhere on campus – an invaluable advantage when moving from the lecture room to the Int. House can easily take 20 minutes on foot. Visit to get information about cost of living in Lisbon.

Now what is missing in the Residence Halls: lots of fun. There are 51 nations on seven corridors only in the Int. House. Get to know new people every day – be it in the middle of the hallways (and be it at 2 a.m.), at the breakfast table or in the evening in the excellent, in-house café with a fine glass of wine or the best mocha – this is THE place to be intercultural exchange – and for me that easily outweighed the poor equipment. If you want to make new acquaintances and make friends you definitely have to go to the Int. House.

Further notes: a small but very cozy library offers space for learning. Washing machines ($ 1.25 per load), dryers (approx. $ 0.75 per load), and ironing boards are plentiful, but irons are unfortunately not. Vacuum cleaners can be borrowed. In the Int. House is a supply shop in which everything possible for daily needs can be purchased at good prices (toothpaste, razors, detergents, cheap calling cards, etc.). A little tip: there is the European-American power adapter for a ridiculous $ 2 – far cheaper than in Germany.
For house dust mite allergy sufferers: the residence halls are not an option here. Heavy carpets, thick fabric curtains and fabric pinboards make a stay impossible. The Spartan I-House equipment is an advantage here: wooden tables and chairs without upholstery, the purest PVC floor and tubular steel double beds as well as no curtains offer dust mites a chance. For the mattress on site, please pack the allergy protection cover and sleep upstairs if possible.

CS61A – The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs

A brilliant course for beginners in the field of computer science. In eight weeks, one semester of computer science is compressed into it. The content of the course is available here:

The textbook is also available online:

The course content, grading scheme etc. are here:

Attention: The workload is EXTREMELY high. In addition to 3h Lecture + Discussion / Lab from Monday to Thursday, there are also 15 homeworks (1HW can take 3-4h), 4 projects (each around 10-20h time required), 2 midterms, 1 final (not to mention the “voluntary “Reviews before midterms and finals, always SUNDAYS from 2pm to 5pm) + of course 400 pages textbook and 300 pages reader. Exams are usually also written from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. This results in a workload of 35-40 hours per week. Therefore, do not combine this course with any other C course (really, honestly!).

Target group of this course: IT students in the first / second semester, IT-savvy from other areas (business administration, technical etc.). But be careful: if you have never programmed and don’t know what a class is or what a function does, you should take CS3 (the preparatory course for CS61A that starts with the basics. Everything is really explained here, starting with: “What is a Variable ”via“ What can such a nasty recursive loop do? ”). This course is part of the normal IT degree at Berkeley.

The care is excellent. In addition to the professor, 3-4 TAs are available daily from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Exams are completely corrected within one day. This is rounded off by an excellent forum, all lectures can be downloaded as webcasts including transcripts, e-mails are usually answered within 1-2 hours, exercises, lecture notes, etc. are available as readers for each lecture – it couldn’t be better.

ECON136N – Financial Economics

This course is EXTREMELY math-heavy. The contents largely coincide with “Investments” – only that here every formula starting from CAPM to MicroEDUAPM or Black-Scholes is mathematically derived. The exam task is called: derive the Black-Scholes formula for put options. I am happy to provide examples on request. For non math cracks: please select investments. Are you great at math? L’Hopital do you shoot from the hip? Lagrange multipliers are your world, the derivatives of nested summation functions are cool and if the professor runs out of Greek letters in the formula, does it put a smile on your face? Then you are spot on here. And I have to say one thing very honestly: if you really want to dive very deeply into investments – I can’t imagine that all over the (!) world there is a much more demanding course in this area. Small problem: Office hours are only available on Tuesdays for 1 hour, e-mails are answered slowly – there are good scripts for the next day from 01:00 in the morning – Quote from Professor: “good students don’t sleep at night”. After the fear: This course can be done, even with a very good grade – but then please choose a D course as the second and have a talent in this area.


The organization is exemplary – but tough. You don’t like a course on the first day? Drop it IMMEDIATELY and choose a new one. The money is transferred and it is completely normal to drop rates in the US. The university sees itself as a service provider, if you don’t like the product you want to sell another one. Once the first week has passed, you cannot drop any more courses and the content is too advanced to catch up. Deadlines are tough: Friday, 5:00 p.m. is exactly then, and not 5:10 p.m. – there are no exceptions.

The gym is very good. For $ 10 (for 8 weeks) there is a three-storey studio, 2 swimming pools (outdoor pool / Olympic pool), basketball halls, course program and much more.


Take the F line to San Francisco – it’s not only free in contrast to the BART, but it’s just as fast. The BART station is in the north of the campus, the way to and from the halls will take longer than with the bus – it leaves right in front of the front door. In SF: definitely rent a bike and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge – it couldn’t be better. SF / Berkeley is cold though – always wear a sweater with you – the temperatures drop in the afternoon and it’s very windy. Advantage: In summer it never rains, not a drop – from July to September there is a drought period and the amount of precipitation during this time is verifiably 0, so really not the slightest droplet.


Take little luggage with you to America and go shopping, for example in Gilroy Premium Outlet with 150 shops. Prices there: Levis $ 30, Billabong Shorts: $ 30, Etnies (shoes) $ 50, Puma / Nike etc. $ 70. Due to the university, you do not have to pay any underage surcharge at the local rental car rental company (explicitly mention this when booking). A car with insurance costs $ 40- $ 50 per day, always with unlimited miles. The fuel is the equivalent of € 0.70 per liter. Must-sees: Route 1 south to LA, Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe. For all motorcyclists: Harley’s can be rented with a German driver’s license. However, a $ 2000 deposit is taken. To prevent this, simply rent the motorcycle via Germany – then fully comprehensive insurance is usually included. Protective clothing is unknown and not included in the price. There are no full-face helmets, gloves etc. – just the typical fully open Harley helmet. Unfortunately, the price is € 80-90 per day – with unlimited miles.

University of California Berkeley Review (7)