A First-Year Perspective
Almost a year has passed since I made the decision to attend UC Berkeley, and much has changed since then—the biggest change has been moving away from home and adapting to life in Berkeley. I know I was wondering what living on campus would be like as I filled out my on-campus housing application last year, so I’ve shared answers to questions I used to have below. For any prospective students, newly-admitted students, or those looking to live on campus, I hope this post helps you in some way!
Adapting to college life
I’m from a small town, so moving here was a big change for me. I was worried about adjusting to life in a city, especially since I wasn’t going to have access to a car, and public transportation was not commonly used in my area of California.
But after the first week of being here, and as that gradually became the first month, I found that adjusting was not as bad as I had expected.
Having awesome roommates made adapting much easier, because I knew I wasn’t alone in my feelings of uncertainty. I met one of my roommates on the Class of 2025 Facebook group (“class of” groups help admitted students with the same graduation year connect to one another), and we applied for housing together. My other roommate was randomly matched with both of us through the random selection process. The housing application asks a few questions that help match you with a suitable roommate, from questions about sleeping habits to room preferences. I experienced both sides of roommate selection, and they both worked out great for me!
The residence hall staff also do their best to make sure students are adjusting to life here. The activities don’t stop after the first week of the fall semester—residential events are held throughout the year, encouraging students to interact with one another at social gatherings. Webinars are also common, from information sessions on studying abroad to Chem 1A review sessions hosted by the Residential Tutoring Program, part of the academic support that Residential Life offers. And there’s no need to remember all of these or seek them out yourself—a newsletter with important updates and events is emailed to residents every week!
I live in Unit 2, so getting meals from one of the most popular dining commons is particularly convenient for me: Crossroads is a short walk away. I usually get my food to-go and eat in my room, and having the self-serve option makes this extra convenient! Other students eat at the dining commons or find great outdoor dining spots. The Den and Peet’s Coffee are also very close by, so I often stop in to get a ham and cheese croissant. When I’m on campus for longer periods of time, I go to the Golden Bear Cafe and use my flex dollars to buy snacks or even use a meal swipe.
My lunch from Crossroads: chicken tenders, vegetables, rice, and a salad I made at the salad bar.
If you’re curious about how flex dollars and meal swipes work, Cal Dining has a FAQ page you can refer to. Allergens and ingredients used are listed out on the menus, both online and in person when you get your food. And if you have special dietary needs, there are dining options for you!
Walks to class & beyond
Unit 2 is three blocks from campus, and this semester my longest walk to class is 15 minutes. There’s a lot of different routes to get to campus (including the bus!) and for the first few weeks I tried out a few to see which ones were less hilly and which ones took less time. Regardless, my walks to class are great exercise and were the highlight of my mornings last semester, when I had an 8 a.m. class and needed the cool morning air to wake me up.
Left: Campanile is visible from most parts of campus! Right: Staircase near Anthony Hall.
Berkeley is generally a very walkable place, which is something I have come to appreciate.
Everything is close to the res halls, and even if it isn’t, there’s a bus stop down the street that can take you wherever you need to go. There are Bear Transit shuttles that are free for the UC Berkeley community and provide a quick way to get around campus. Plus every student receives a Clipper Card that is loaded with an AC Transit Student EasyPass, which allows you to ride any AC Transit bus without cost.
Exploring (and having fun)
The easiest new things to try for me were new foods and restaurants, which Berkeley has all over. Telegraph and Durant Avenue are a short walk away, which is convenient and makes trying new restaurants much easier. And, for our busy schedules, a lot of restaurants have to-go options.
Before I got to campus, students already attending Berkeley were always recommending different restaurants and shops—most notably Gypsy’s and Kingpin Donuts. Now that I’ve tried both I can definitely understand why they are always mentioned. Boba is also popular, and although I am personally not a huge fan, I asked my roommate for her recommendation, and she picked out Sharetea. And for those living near the north side of campus: I’ve recently tried and loved Seoul Hot Dog!
Picture from my trip to The Painted Ladies in San Francisco
Trips out of Berkeley are also made easy thanks to the public transportation system. As I mentioned before, my town and region don’t use public transport as much as other areas do, so learning to use it was a new experience for me. San Francisco is a short BART ride away, which makes slow weekends more fun! And for music lovers like myself: artists love the Bay Area, particularly Oakland and San Francisco, which to me is a great plus of living here.
I still have a lot more to discover, and a lot more time to explore! I’m happy I get to call Berkeley home for the next few years, and I’m glad I decided to begin my time here by living in the residence halls.
By the way, if you want to see inside a res hall, check out this great tour of Unit 2 on YouTube!
Melissa Mora-Gonzalez is a first-year student at UC Berkeley majoring in English.