As a college, Berkeley is one of the best places to learn about yourself and of students of other cultural and ethnic backgrounds. While there are sure to be student groups geared towards hobbies and cultures that you identify strongly with, there are also students groups which differ greatly from your political and social viewpoints. That is the beauty of Berkeley. Thus, compared to other well-established institutions, I would say that Berkeley has a reasonably well-rounded student body. There are currently more than 650 student groups on campus, ranging from The Rubber Band Club to the recently re-established third world Liberation Front, covering issues which span the political scale from the very liberal left to the very conservative right. There is such a range of eccentric people roaming around campus, student or not, that it is impossible to feel out of place at Berkeley. From “emo-rocker” to “grunge bohemian,” fashion is a common way for Berkeley students to make a statement. Although most students don a pair of blue jeans and a Cal sweatshirt for class, at Berkeley, no one would take a second glance if you were going to class in a bright orange bathing suit. However, the Northern Californian weather is a huge factor in deciding what to wear to class, and even into late spring, the crisp cool weather keeps most students in jackets and sweatshirts. Especially for Southern Californian residents, who are accustomed to t-shirts and tank tops, San Francisco/Bay Area weather proves to be much more temperamental, with surprise showers and the occasional foggy mornings. What I appreciate most about Berkeley is the diversity among students, and the strong emphasis which these students themselves place on embracing multiculturalism. Most recently, a strong desire to establish a permanent space for a multicultural center has prompted various student protests as well as emergency sit-ins against the university. Students from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds participated in this movement together, working towards a goal which may represent different things to each of them, but together means a substantial shift towards a desired change on campus. Thus, cultural student groups have a strong influence on the atmosphere of Berkeley student life. However, although culturally diverse, the Berkeley student population is not as geographically diverse as most other college populations. While there are a handful of students from out of state, there are few to none full-time international students. Although it is great meeting people from all over California, I would have hoped that my college experience would expose me to students from different states and countries. Still, it would be wrong to assume that because most Berkeley students are from California, that they are homogenous representation of the democratic state of California. Instead, the students are a reflection of the general American population, reflecting stances regarding social and political issues similar to that of the general population curve, with moderates in the majority, and a few on the far left or far right.
Racial, religious, and ethnic groups seem to be somewhat segregated at Berkeley. I think this, in part, comes from Berkeley being such a large place. Most students try to find some sort of community while there, and for many, the community they find is one based on a common ethnic/religious/racial/cultural background. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much contact between many of the student groups. People find their niche and stay there, it seems. Most students wear something casual to class - whether it's a sweatshirt and jeans or full-on hipster costume with skinny pants, strategically messy hair, and a striped shirt. Beyond those that look like they raided the nearby Urban Outfitters, there is usually at least one person in every class who takes it up a notch. This was especially true in Art History classes, in which there were always a few girls (usually members of sororities) who wore extremely put-together outfits and carried a purse in lieu of a backpack. Most Berkeley students are from California. It was exciting to meet someone from out-of-state, even, dare I say it, a little exotic. I'd say a middle-class financial background is probably most prevalent - with an upper-middle class background being more common within the Greek system (and probably among certain majors). There are also many students from lower-income backgrounds and those who work their way through college. Berkeley is a diverse place, and this diversity definitely applies to socioeconomics, though with rising tuition costs, it will probably be more difficult for many students to attend Berkeley. Students tend to be politically aware, but as I said before, not necessarily very politically active. Berkeley is known to be a hotbed of activism, and disappointingly, it does not seem to be anymore. There are definitely a few active groups who support a particular issue or cause, but they often have few members, and those members are often the members of the other active student groups (as my cousin said, the same guy who heads the Socialist student group is also the president of the Stop the War Coalition and about five other clubs). The majority of the student body seems politically apathetic - generally leftist, but uninvolved in political activities on campus. When my friends and I talked about our future earning-power, we generally agreed we'd be making pennies and/or unemployed. I imagine Business students do talk about their eventual earning power and that that discussion includes some talk about "six-figures".
As a top-ranked public school, Cal does draw certain archetypes. Almost everyone here is very academically driven. Finding "slackers" in your classes is very rare, but you will not necessarily be intimidated by the students who raise their hands and comment in lecture. Do not confuse the term "academically driven" with "intelligent" or "wise". Students generally fit either into the category of "naturally gifted" or "hardworking", and while both succeed, it is obviously easier for one than the other. On a daily basis, the students dress with much more effort than they do at, say, UC Davis, or even here when my sister was at Cal 5 years ago. There is a greater emphasis on self expression and, despite being from the area, I have never seen such liberal accessorizing anywhere else. While you can get away with wearing pretty much anything here (see: shirtless, shoeless), there is something of a uniform. Hundreds of girls roam the campus in knee-high riding boots, skinny jeans, and wool coats in the winter time. Every classroom has at least a half-dozen plaid shirts in it and every other one of those plaid shirts is topped by a pair of thick-rimmed retro-wayfarer spectacles. On the whole, other students tend to be friendly, helpful, and eager to connect on common ground. Depending upon the classes you choose to take, you may be surrounded by impressively well-read and intelligent individuals, or "normal" people. Largely because of the diversity, the school itself tries to foster a very open and accepting environment in which students are able to comfortably share their opinions. There are a few drawbacks to this, however. First of all, students are encouraged to speak freely and often. This means that some very sheltered students will sometimes share what they consider to be valuable (if irrelevant) opinions with the entire lecture hall...at length. We like to casually refer to this as the "Special Snowflake" complex. 2 years ago, The Atlantic reported counselors at east-coast universities have exasperatedly referred to them as "teacups" for their fragility. These people exist everywhere, but feel more comfortable expressing themselves at Cal than they might at the type of east-coast school that would openly frown upon them and label them "teacups". There will be at least two in every class. .
-I have many male gay friends and I feel like there is a large gay presence here at Berkeley that I hardly even take notice of anymore. I have noticed that I can walk around Berkeley and hear people speaking 10 different languages within the course of a day. I feel like a lot of students here are from middle to upper middle class background, but I do know a very small few that are from poorer homes. -I honestly really cannot think of anyone that would feel out of place here. I think there is something for everyone here and that everyone has a niche. There are people from all backgrounds, nationalities, with all different tastes and personalities that I cannot imagine someone not finding a group they fit into or a class they didn't like. I guess the type of person who wouldn't fit in is someone intolerant of diversity or someone who does not like to study hard! -Wear: Jeans plus a Berkeley/Cal sweatshirt or north face jacket and some Rainbow sandals or running shoes or ugg boots, with a north face backpack, no joke. - Different types of students interact all the time, it is impossible not to. -Four tables: well, i guess that there are the athletics who sort of give me the impression like they feel somewhat superior to us regular students. there are the business majors who all they think about is how they can get into Haas school of business (or recruit you into their club). There are the radicals. And then there is everyone else. really, the first three are minorities though. -Most Berkeley students are from California. -Financial backgrounds most prevalent are middle to upper middle class. -Yes, we are politically aware. Definitely left. I was conservative before I came here and now I consider myself very liberal. -Earn one day: I am a history major, so we mostly talk about how poor we are going to be!
This campus is incredibly diverse. It is not just Asian, as people like to say. Campus groups are very active and their tables line Upper Sproul, the main square that extends from Sather Gate. In fact, it is hard to get through that area on a regular school day without ten people handing you a flyer about their improv show or local protest. Looking around campus, one could quite literally see every single variation of dress - from hippie to hipster to sorority Barbie. The Berkeley campus is quite a stylish one, which is contrary to my image of the student body when I was applying to Cal. Birkenstocks are NOT the only footwear worn on campus. Bikes are very popular among the student body for transportation, but it is part of the culture of this town as well. Most students, despite the image they project, are middle class. Living in the dorms or the coops, however, is a very equalling experience and a student's financial background is not obvious. Students are smart. They just are. Even people that don't pontificate about French politics or labor practices in Bolivia have a knowledge of a wide range of subjects and could converse about almost anything. My brother came to visit me one weekend, and couldn't believe the conversations my friends and I were having at a party. Students here like to learn, or they wouldn't be here. When I have to do group projects for class, it isn't like high school where one person does all the work while the other people lay around. At Cal, people participate. I constantly feel dumb here. But in a good way. In a way that makes me want to be as smart and work as hard as other people in my classes.
Berkeley students are definitely diverse. Though racial minorities are underrepresented (like in most schools), they are definitely present. Since Berkeley's a public school, we tend to get more people from the lower end of the socio-economic scale than other schools. There's an active LGBT community - we're generally ranked in the top 10 schools for LGBT students, due to a supportive community and many student groups. Though there are multiple religious and conservative student groups on campus, it's by and large a pretty secular and liberal bubble. Vocal conservative or fundamentalist students are likely to feel somewhat out of place among the general campus community. Most people are from California, and there's a large international community as well. People from other states within the US seem to be the minority, though I don't know if that's actually true. It's hard to classify how people generally interact, just because there are so many. Everything's pretty chill, so most people just wear jeans or sweats to class - although you'll always see a handful of people dressed to impress. There's a significant number of women who wear head coverings or men in yarmulkes. I even knew a guy who wore a handmade chainmail shirt everyday. Berkeley gets all types.
DIVERSITY. The only word I can think of to characterize the entire Berkeley student body is "smart". Everyone at Berkeley is smart, talented, and has so much to offer. Other than that, the students are all so different and come from all walks of life. I have seen every type of religion, economical status, political stance, race, stereotype, etc. There is truly something for everyone here at Cal. If you're smart enough to get in, then you will definitely find your place here. There are so many clubs and organizations to get involved in its crazy. Every day these clubs sit out on our main walk way tabling and flying, trying to get people to join their group. There are endless opportunities and ways to get involved in whatever it is that you are interested in. And if you can't find what you're looking for, you can always start your own club!! And surely, there will be many more people who will join you. No need to worry about fitting in here. Berkeley is a cultural place, where everyone is accepted. Politically active/aware?? YESSS! People are always protesting in Berkeley. Instead of snow days, we have strike days. Sometimes classes are cancelled because there is a strike.
I would say that it would be difficult to feel out of place at UC Berkeley. Nearly every kind of person or group imaginable is represented. I have never seen as much diversity anywhere as at UC Berkeley. I've had experiences with many different groups on campus, and for the most part they're been positive. My only concern is that sometimes such groups can be rather exclusive, and not open to individuals who are different from them. Most students wear casual, comfortable, or fashionable clothes to class. It's pretty much what you'd expect college students to be wearing, with nothing too out of the ordinary. Most students at UC Berkeley seem to be from either Northern or Southern California. I would say middle to upper-middle class backgrounds are most common. Students are very politically aware and active. I would say there is a slight bias towards the left politically, but most people are probably moderate, and there are a fair amount of conservative individuals. Students don't really talk about how much they'll earn one day. At least not eh people I associate with.
Take a walk through Sproul Plaza on any weekday, and you'll find a club that caters to every demographic. Among these groups: Conservatives at Cal, Ski Club, New Christian Fellowship, Alpha Rho Chi (a co-ed fraternity for architecture students), Tikvah - Students for Israel, Queer Straight Alliance, Foresight Pre-Optometry Club, Unicycle Basketball Club, Hermanos Unidos (a Latino, all-male social group), Dance Marathon (an event whose proceeds benefit the fight against pediatric AIDS), and Cal Ballroom (a dance club). Most students are politically aware, but political alliances vary greatly. Many are from California, and a fairly large proportion are international students. Because Berkeley is academically prestigious, most students are competitive, highly motivated, and very ambitious Monday through Friday, but you won't have to look very far to find a good time when you're unwinding over the weekend! Come Monday morning, you'd better be ready to head back to the grindstone.
Having lived my formative years in largely white suburban neighborhoods, the high ratio of Asian, particularly Chinese, Korean, and Japanese, students was a cultural shift for me. Despite what I feel to be ethnic homogeneity, Berkeley does not lack in experiences and intellectual interests. Most of the students come from relatively well-off, middle or upper middle class backgrounds, and most students are from California. A noticeable rivalry exists between students from Norcal and students from Socal; although all in good fun, the lack of international and out-of-state students has been disappointing to me personally, as I come from an international background and thrive in a multicultural environment. Students from the same background tend to be drawn to each other. Overall, Berkeley students are a curious, intelligent bunch. For the most part, Berkeley students encourage and celebrate differences.