Out of State, Right in Place

Nina Takahashi and their floormates.

Nina Takahashi and their floormates.

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Finding a home at UC Berkeley as an out-of-state student.

Two months ago, it started to rain as I walked back to my dorm from the Recreational Sports Facility. The raindrops were cold and heavy, and I stopped in place to watch them splatter against the sidewalk. Before I knew what was happening, I was crying my heart out through my eyelashes. Standing in the middle of Bancroft Way, I realized this was the first time in my life I’d gone more than a month without rain.

Hailing from Beaverton, Oregon, a suburb outside of Portland, my childhood was colored by downpour. I longed for sunshine and applied to many of the UCs as a result, with Berkeley being my top choice. I was elated when I was accepted.

Going out of state never seemed scary to me because both of my siblings had left Oregon and my father had left his home country. However, once I was actually in California, the anxiety set in. I had to navigate a brand-new environment and build a life for myself here at Berkeley.

In this article, I’ll touch on my experience as an out-of-state student — accessing financial aid, utilizing resources, and finding a community. Whether you’re a prospective out-of-state student or a current one, I hope hearing my story helps you feel more comfortable making a home somewhere new.

Nina posing with her “I am Berkeley” acceptance folder after committing to Cal.

Nina posing with the “I am Berkeley” acceptance folder after committing to Cal.

Navigating Financial Aid

If you’re anything like me, your biggest concern as a current or prospective out-of-state student is summed up in one word: cost. Fortunately, there are several ways to make UC Berkeley more affordable.


Scholarships are your best friend. Apply to every local scholarship you can get your hands on — and I mean every scholarship. Even if you don’t think you’ll win a given award, applying is still a great way to improve your writing skills and build connections. I’m here at Cal because of the programs that believed in me, such as the Portland Japanese American Citizens League and the Oregon School Activities Association.

Aside from local scholarships, there are also awards offered through UC Berkeley. Two examples are the Cal Alumni Scholars Program’s Leadership Award and the Jack Kent Cooke scholarship.


As part of their financial aid package, many out-of-state Golden Bears receive work-study. Work-study allows students to finance their education through part-time employment. The process of applying to work-study jobs can be overwhelming, but if you’re fortunate enough to receive this unique form of financial aid, it’s an opportunity you don’t want to pass up.

Work-study gives you structure in your schedule, builds your resume, and benefits the Cal community. I was fortunate enough to receive a work study position in a field I’m passionate about: writing.

Part-Time Jobs

If you don’t qualify for work study, don’t panic! It’s still very easy to find employment in a college town like Berkeley. If you have your food handler’s license, the food service industry is a great place to start. In addition to my job writing for UC Berkeley Life, I also work at a local Japanese restaurant.

Attending UC Berkeley as an out-of-state student can seem daunting due to high costs, but it doesn’t have to be. With scholarships, work study, and/or part-time jobs, you can make Cal more affordable.

Nina and her fellow Portland Japanese American Citizens League Scholarship winners.

Nina (first row, second from left) and her fellow Portland Japanese American Citizens League Scholarship winners.

Accessing Resources

Once you’ve accepted your admission to Cal, there are plenty of resources to help ease your transition into Berkeley. I’ve highlighted three below, but many more are addressed during your Golden Bear Orientation at the beginning of the school year.

Public Transportation

Depending on where you’re from, public transportation may seem elusive. Here in Berkeley though, it’s an invaluable resource to utilize — even more so if you’re unfamiliar with California’s geography.

As a part of your financial costs, UC Berkeley students have access to the Alameda-Contra County (AC) Transit system, a network of Oakland-based bus lines that criss-cross the bulk of the area. AC Transit has been particularly useful to me as a student in Cal’s Fall Program for Freshmen, which hosts its classes off-campus.

Another form of public transportation to look into as an out-of-state student is the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART). While this railway isn’t free, it is a cost-efficient alternative to using third-party ridesharing apps when exploring San Francisco, or commuting to the airport to fly back to your home state.


UC Berkeley has several gorgeous libraries housing classic literature and quiet study spots, but one less-crowded, off-campus resource that my roommates and I frequent is the Berkeley Public Library. Just a fifteen-minute walk from the heart of campus, the Berkeley Public Library is your destination to check out novels and read to your heart’s content.

My roommates and I registered for a library card at Caltopia, but you can register at any time on the Berkeley Public Library website.

Academic Help

Meeting with a professional academic advisor early into your time at UC Berkeley is the perfect way to figure out what you’re passionate about studying (and to make sure you graduate on time!). You can schedule appointments within specific colleges and departments throughout the year.

Starting a life in a new place is difficult, but Cal and the Berkeley area at large provide resources to support you and your transition. Make use of them!

Two blue Clipper cards, which are used for the AC Transit System and BART.

Clipper cards, which are used for the AC Transit System and BART.

Finding Your Community

As an out-of-state introvert, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t anxious about settling into UC Berkeley socially. Finding my community here at Cal wasn’t difficult at all though. UC Berkeley provides dozens of opportunities for incoming students to get involved.

Attending events hosted by your Hall Association is the simplest way to start breaking out of your shell. Not only do Hall Association activities feature students from your building, they also don’t require leaving your courtyard. This year, my unit’s Hall Association has hosted movie nights, contests for cash prizes, and wellness booths. If you want to branch out more, try checking out the UC Berkeley Events Calendar to see opportunities across campus.

Clubs can also provide you with lifelong friends. With over 1,000 student groups on campus, you’re sure to find one that’s tailored to your needs and interests. Oregon doesn’t have a large Asian & Pacific Islander community, so the Cal Japan Club and Berkeley Nikkei Student Union have been a treat for me. Talking with students who share my lived experiences was especially comforting during my first month in California.

The most important thing to remember is that everyone is trying to make friends during their first few weeks at university. The Cal community is strong. Even if you’re out of state, you can find your family here.

Nina and his “Big” in Cal’s Nikkei Student Union. Photo taken by UC Berkeley Nikkei Student Union’s Historian committee.

Nina (right) and their “Big” in Cal’s Nikkei Student Union. Photo taken by UC Berkeley Nikkei Student Union’s Historian committee.

Nina and their roommates at Cal Japan Club and the Berkeley Nikkei Student Union’s joint Halloween party!

Nina (right) and their roommates at Cal Japan Club and Berkeley Nikkei Student Union’s joint Halloween party!

Stopping to Smell the Roses

When you’re an out-of-state student, it often feels like you’re playing a game of catch-up. How do I use California public transport? What’s the distance between Berkeley and San Francisco? People pump their own gas here? (That one’s specific to Oregon, but still a bit of a shocker!) But what I’ve learned over these last few months is that it’s okay to go slow; even more than that, it’s necessary. You are here for a reason, even when you feel lonely, homesick, or out of place. You belong at UC Berkeley.

So, if you’re an out-of-state student like me, don’t sweat the small stuff. Apply for financial aid, use the resources provided to you, and find your community. Most importantly though, take some time to relish being in the Golden State. Explore the Bay Area, learn from local friends, and embrace every day at UC Berkeley — even the rainy ones.

Nina in front of Sproul Hall.

Nina in front of Sproul Hall.


Nina Takahashi is a first-year at UC Berkeley majoring in film and minoring in Japanese.