First, I want to start off with an analogy of the study abroad experience. Studying abroad can be like a rollercoaster, consisting of steep falls and rapid inclines. It is completely natural that you will find yourself missing home or feeling lonely in a campus with more than 37 thousand students. It can be tough enrolling for courses and settling into a new place. On top of that, the workload is very extensive here, with LOTS of reading to do and many long nights spent in the library. What I am trying to say is that it is normal to feel overwhelmed at times. However, only this way can you learn to appreciate aspects that you never before stopped to consider. And, don’t forget about all those other FUNtabulous things you are experiencing during this massive journey.
I am currently writing this post after a killer week of 5 midterms that I had in 3 days. To bring up those happy vibes again I want to use this blog post to commemorate some of the great things I have been doing during my stay here in Berkley. I have created a list of some of the top 10 things you should be doing when studying at Cal.
- A Tahoe Trip
Thanks to 4 residents of the Ihouse (cheers to Jesse, Neel, Jvalin & Gregory!), 60 of us took a road trip to Lake Tahoe. It is only a 3.5-hour drive from Berkeley until you reach the largest alpine lake of North America, located on the border of California and Nevada. Together we stayed in a big lodge, where we had rowdy parties at night. Yet, during the day people split up to go splash in the clear blue lake or to hike up the mountains for a view of the glistening water from above. With a group of 9, we hiked up Mt. Tallac, which is one of the most well known peaks in the area, reaching 2,968m in altitude – breath-taking views guaranteed!
- A capella
UC Berkeley has 16 different A capella groups. You thought ‘Pitch-Perfect’ is just a movie – well you are wrong! We went to one of their shows and it was amazing! Some of the groups also perform in front of the Sather Gate on campus every week at 12am.
Only an hour away lays ‘THE California’ most of you probably picture in your head: surf boards, beach and sun. We rented boards and wetsuits (yeh, the Bay Area is not the hot California you image after all and the water is quite cold) and tried our best at catching the waves.
- CREAM: Cookies Rule Everything Around Me
One of the sweetest treats around Berkley: you get a choice of cookies and an endless list of ice cream flavours. Then your pick becomes one (American sized) cookie + ice cream sandwich! – A must do!
- Berkeley’s Fire Trails
Up in the hills of Berkeley are many fire trails, which are great for running. There is no traffic, no asphalt and it smells like pine trees and eucalyptus. Going up can be a bit steep but the view (especially at sunset) is spectacular. I think this is where I found my new favourite place in Berkeley – overlooking the bay, Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Open-Air Cinema
Quite often there are open-air cinema showcases on Memorial Glade during the weekends. They build up a large screen and many students huddle up in their blankets to enjoy the movie and the free popcorn.
- Frat Parties
Another great thing to do here is to party at the frat houses. Be open and try getting to know some of the frat boys for some good chat. On the whole, this is an experience that will meet many of the stereotypical images about American students – bring out the red cups, beer pong, hip hop music, short dresses, grinding, etc…
You can become ‘cinnaholic’ at this little place that sells cinnamon buns. You get to spice up these little warm rolls of goodness by choosing your own frosting flavours from butter pecan to pina colada and then toppings such as fresh raspberries, cookie dough or marshmallows.
- Barker Beach
You can go to the beach right next to the Golden Gate Bridge to soak up some San Francisco vibes. Do be ready to find some nude bathers around here.
- San Francisco
I have not been to San Francisco enough for my liking. It is a big city so there is a lot to discover. So far I have made it to Powell (city centre) for some shopping. Also, China town is very close to the main centre and it is the biggest China town outside of China. It is a great place to escape the western world and to enter a unique atmosphere of little souvenirs, chopsticks and red lanterns.