As I was driving through the streets of Berkeley on my arrival, these were my first impressions: “green and colourful”. We then turned the car into Piedmont Avenue, a street with big houses, which all proudly present their big greek letters on the front doors – “real fraternities and sororities, just like in the movies!”. There is a lot to absorb and experience in this place, so let me summarise my Berkeley beginnings for you.
I have now been in Berkeley for almost 1 complete month. Time passes quickly here at Cal. People say that you can never be bored in this city – if you are not studying, there are always events happening, friends to see or new people to meet.
On my second day in Berkeley the Berkeley International Office (located in the International House a.k.a Ihouse) held an orientation for all UCEAP (UC Education Abroad Programme) students. This orientation is mandatory and is also very useful. You meet a lot of new faces, hear about the enrolment & waitlisting processes and receive general information about being a student at Cal.
On the whole there are a lot of events during the first week before Uni officially starts. The International Office organises many trips such as campus tours, a hike to the Botanical Garden and endless ice cream socials. The university also holds ‘Caltopia’ at the gym, where all its sponsors advertise and hand out free samples. Go to these to explore your new surroundings and to meet as many people as possible. I have been able to try do some American Football tackles in the Memorial Stadium, climbed the symbolic Sather Tower on campus and visited the Chancellor’s house on campus. Together we have also organised a trip to San Francisco, Baker beach by the Golden Gate Bridge and Berkeley’s Marina.
Making friends in Berkeley is easy, especially when living at the Ihouse. It is amazing that every time you go to the dining hall for a meal you meet someone else from a different part of the world. A lot of emphasis is put on international exchange and togetherness at Ihouse, which makes everyone very open, friendly and respectful. I was fortunate enough to also quickly form an amazing group of closer friends – we call ourselves ‘The Berkeley Riot Club’. We have 9 boys in the group: Jelle (NL), Josh (UK), Tom (NL), Sindre (Norway), Davide (Italy), Matthijs (NL), Pav (UK), Brent (USA) and Vincent (NL). And we are 4 girls: Soesja (NL) Alessandra (Italy), Sarah (USA) and I. We get along really well & have a lot of fun together and keep meeting more and more people.
But here a few snapshots of my first impressions: