International @ Cal

Oski standing in front of a building at UC Berkeley.

Oski standing in front of a building at UC Berkeley.

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Reflections from an International Student at UC Berkeley

When I first landed in the US back in August 2019, it felt like entering a scene from a movie. Palm trees, sunny skies, and sleek cars—all those Hollywood images I’d grown up with seemed to materialize right before my eyes. But reality had its own plans for me, especially as I made my way from Los Angeles to UC Berkeley.

The Bay Area greeted me with a different vibe—cold winds and beaches more rocky than sandy. It was a far cry from the picturesque scenes I’d seen in media. And while the abundance of pizza in the dining halls did bring a chuckle, it also reminded me of the disparities between what we see on screens and what life’s really like.

We asked UC Berkeley international students, “What’s been your biggest culture shock while being in Berkeley?” Whether you’re local or from far away, share your culture shocks in the chat! 🗺️💙💛🐻

For information on how to attend UC Berkeley as an international student, follow @ucbintloffice @ihouseberkeley 

#ucberkeley #berkeley #ucberkeleylife #internationalstudents #collegelife #university #collegestudent

Finding Home Away from Home

Keeping in touch with loved ones while diving into Berkeley’s social scene wasn’t easy. Homesickness became my silent companion, a part of being an international student that often gets overlooked. Yet, amidst all the challenges, I found my people.

Those strangers I shared a dorm with? They quickly became my family. We did everything together—shopping trips, post-midterm ice cream runs, and endless heart-to-hearts about life’s ups and downs. We embraced our differences, laughed over elevator vs. lift debates, and cherished every moment together.

Club rejections stung, but the acceptances? They changed everything. The International Students Association became more than just a club; it became my global support system. We bonded over Thanksgiving confusion, the mysteries of American football, and the craving for home-cooked meals.

Somewhere along the way Berkeley started feeling like home. It wasn’t an overnight change but a gradual one. I didn’t stop missing home but I did have things I knew I would miss in Berkeley when I did eventually go back home.

Make a Big University Feel Personal

Then there was the Speaker Series—a small club I joined that grew into my rock. Little did I know that these eight people would become my mentors and best friends. They’re still the ones I turn to, even after Berkeley. They’re the friends who’ve seen me through it all—the late-night study sessions, the adventures, and the occasional heartbreak.

Looking back, sure, there are things I’d do differently. But those moments of doubt and growth? They’ve shaped me into who I am today. If I could talk to my freshman self, I’d say, “It’s okay to stumble, to change your mind, to take chances. College is your time to explore, to mess up, and to find your way. So, embrace the journey—failures, friendships, and all. After all, that’s what makes this ride called college so unforgettable.”


Viva Sheth is a graduating senior at UC Berkeley majoring in business and English with a minor in journalism.

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