I'm going to use this section to talk a bit about the dating scene. I did the Berkeley overnight stay program to get to know the campus before actually going up there and stayed with a couple of guys in Bowles - the all-boys freshman dormitory that is said to look like Hogwarts from Harry Potter (and indeed it does - on the outside at least). On the inside it looked okay, just sort of plain and dungeon-like. Anyways, I went in there with a few others carrying our sleeping bags and backpacks. Whooh! What a walk! Uphill too! This was my first taste of what it would be like having to walk everywhere around Berkeley. What a pain in the ass! I wasn't too exhausted or anything, but what really made things miserable was that it was raining. It was raining during the orientation, and now it was raining during my overnight stay experience. Coincidence? Not really. I should have gotten the hint at that point that in Northern California - at least in the "Bay Area" (they call the area around Berkeley and San Francisco the "Bay Area") it rains ALL THE TIME. Some seasons it seems like it rains like every other day. On the days that it does not rain, it is often really muggy, cold, and depressing out - quite a change from having lived in beautiful Southern California! (Or "SoCal" as they like to abbreviate it. I guess everybody up there is too lazy to say "California," lol). I remember that on the days that I visited home after attending Berkeley, the rain would actually seem to follow me to SoCal EVERY TIME. It was so uncanny - like I had brought a curse back with me. On the warmer days, I noticed that just walking around campus in the humidity made me feel all sticky and gross - perhaps I was just used to the fantastic Southern California weather, but for me, the weather in Berkeley was not something that I found to be pleasant. Oh, some other slang words from the area that people like to use are "hella" and "sketchy." The "Asian Ghetto" is a food court near campus. "Frat Row" is a street where most fraternities are located. "Bart" is some train thing that takes you places out of town. "Telebears" is what you use to sign up for classes online. "Ninjacourses" is what you use online to compile class schedules. When people say "Cal," they are usually referring to UC Berkeley, (initially I was confused about this) not California. "Dwinelle" is a building that is said to be like a big internal maze by "Sproul Plaza.” "The Campanile" is the big clock tower. "Sather gate" is the big rustic looking gate on campus which is also by "Sproul Plaza," and "Berkeley Goggles" are, well... I'll get into that in a minute... Anyways, back to my experience. So I roll out my sleeping bags, hoping to have a nice conversation about Berkeley with these guys that I was staying with. They were all doing homework and studying ALL NIGHT. I did some all-nighters in High School, but man, from the looks of things, Berkeley was intense! They still managed to chat a bit and give us a few pointers - they were pretty nice guys from what I could tell. The first thing they told us straight off the bat was "don't choose Bowles!" They all had girls on their minds, like any college-aged group of guys. They complained that the dating scene was pretty horrid, especially for engineers (I would soon find out myself) - choosing BOWLES the ALL GUYS dorm, no doubt, would make socializing with girls even more difficult. They warned us guys about some other things like "beware of Math 1B and skip it if possible since it was the most failed freshman class (I actually ended up taking it, and both my roommate and I failed it on our first go)" and "don't take classes with Ratner, Speliotopolous, or Hilfinger" and ranted about having "Berkeley Goggles. "What are "Berkeley Goggles?" I asked. They gave a brief explanation. Essentially, in Berkeley, one has to lower their standards due to the options available and one gradually learns that people are often not as attractive there as were in one's hometown. I have my own theories for why this phenomenon exists. Perhaps Berkeley college students are too obsessive about academics to put much effort into dating or appearance, or the weather is so dreary that they don't expose their assets, or perhaps the dorm food is too fattening, or perhaps things there are so stressful that people don't exercise as much, or perhaps the more attractive people are the ones who are less likely to be super smart and get into a top-tier school like UC Berkeley, or perhaps due to the "diversity," students there find that the ethnic group that they identify with or are most attracted to is not as prevalent as was in their hometown. Whatever the reason, I found this to ring true for me as well. I didn't really care though. I had a cute girl back at home that I really cared about! Plus going to Berkeley would basically make me a badass, right? Well, my girlfriend and I broke up - I won't go into the details because it's not really too relevant here, but like any long-distance relationship, things were strained (plus she was emotionally needy and blamed me for not being around and even became suicidal at some points!!). I went to Berkeley for a year and during the Summer we got back together, but guess what - at the beginning of my second year, we broke up again. This means that virtually the entire time I was in Berkeley I was single. It was hard finding cute girls to get to know. I would say that most girls there aren't around to date or get to know guys - that's the last thing on their mind. They are there for academics and to make a difference in the world. That's great, but it's sort of hard to date if all you do is study and further your career (me included). Also, these aren't the type of girls that are easily impressed by guys or care too much about how they look (or perhaps don't have the luckiest genes) - they are really smart. It's sort of intimidating to be honest, and it's hard to fill the dominant male gender role that females are generally attracted to like that. Many of them tend to look down on you. In my systems and signals class, there were only like 3 or 4 girls in the class out of a lecture hall of several hundred!! The best place to meet girls would probably have to be in the dorms - but there, it's pretty hit-or-miss. There were about two or three sort of cute girls on my floor. Two had boyfriends and one was a lesbian, political extremist, and studied in the library 24/7. I know it sounds like I'm making a big deal over this little issue, but I believe that in today's society, college is a pretty important time for dating and finding that "special someone" to start life's journey with - afterwards, it becomes a bit difficult with work and it's harder to find places that adults congregate besides bars - plus, I don't want to wait until I'm like 30 or something where most of the available girls have been with like 10 guys already by that time, lol. Let me say that everyone has features that they find make people more cute or attractive - that just makes people human. Unfortunately, I would say that I'm attracted to people who are fit, artsy/creative, not too political, down to earth, family oriented, redheads, care about their appearance, and have freckles (I don't know why, just find it cute, lol). I'm not saying that I care only about appearance or that I couldn't love someone else, I'm just saying those things are like bonuses to me. Unfortunately, it was EXTREMELY hard finding someone who had any of those things!! Most of my friends in Berkeley had similar difficulties or just continued dating whoever they were dating before coming to Berkeley.
Berkeley is a school that never sleeps. From “chalking sidewalks” early in the morning to Taiko drum practices which run late at night, there are student groups ranging from the Freshman Sophomore Business Club to Danceworx holding meetings and events at every hour of the day. While most clubs and student organizations hold events on campus, there is the thriving night-life of fraternities and sororities off campus as well. A stroll down ‘frat-row’ on any weekend will turn-up more than a few themed frat-parties, planned to help fellow students distress or just to get the partying out of their systems. Thus, Greek life is a huge part of the academic and social life at Berkeley, with more than 30% of the student population at Berkeley involved with the Greek system. Although exclusive, benefits of the Greek system include guaranteed housing, a strong support system, and a great way to network and meet alumni. However, if social fraternities or sororities aren’t your thing, there are professional fraternities and sororities as well. Although professional fraternities and sororities do not offer housing for its members, many of the other benefits are included. Housing for students is generally dispersed through five residence halls. However unlike other college campuses, the Berkeley campus does not include on-campus housing sites. This is one aspect of Berkeley that I really enjoy, because it removes definitive campus boundaries, and instead, extends the Berkeley campus into the surrounding neighborhood. This unique characteristic of the Berkeley residence halls allows for greater interaction between students and the surrounding neighborhood, further incorporating the Berkeley community into the college campus. Although some students might find the neighborhood intimidating, as part of the Berkeley city community, learning to respect and interact with the diverse members of the surrounding neighborhood is a priceless experience. The residence halls are a wonderful way to meet people and a great transition between life at home and life on your own, and the wide range of residential options available to students takes into consideration academic vocations, studying habits, and social habits. While there are the residence halls infamous for residents big on partying, there are also residential options directed towards those who prefer studying on the weekends. For them, there are the options of the dormitories further detached from campus, which allow for quiet and privacy, or the entirely substance-free building in one of the residential units where any sort of alcohol or drug is prohibited. Now, if anyone knows anything about college students, it is their largely abnormal sleep cycle. Just as the Telegraph shops are closing up and the restaurants are cleaning up, the night life of the Berkeley students begins. Even at odd hours in the morning, you are bound to find people relaxing after a long night of studying in the main lounge, or crazed-midterm-crammers stressing out in their rooms. For those who develop midnight cravings, or were too busy to grab a bite to eat for dinner, late night meals are available at the dining commons until as late (or as early) as two o’clock in the morning. Many of the neighborhood diners are open twenty-four hours a day to cater to hungry college students as well.
The Greek system and the Co ops are huge. The student government is popular. The frats and sororities are filled with nice people, contrary to the negative sentiment toward them from the rest of the community. Sure, both include some drunk rapists, as does every apartment and other living establishment. They are important in that they run the student govt and connect many people. I was a Co Op kid. I was a hippie and I ate vegan dinners and lived with a bunch of people that thought that they were unique. I made friends for life, and did not catch a single dangerous disease or STD. Do not fear the co ops. The football team is really popular, as is the rugby team. I do not like sports. The dating scene...I am a heterosexual male and was very satisfied with the hedonistic exploits that are possible here. In fact, there was just not enough time to ask everyone I wanted out, largely because I kept getting girlfriends I wanted to stick with. If you want a smart girlfriend, you will find one. A cute one, too, don't let these rumors of Berkeley goggles screw you up. The campus got cuter every day, and now that I am back in Socal I still find the girls I found cute in Berkeley attractive. Girls often complain about the lack of hot guys. They are probably right, but that's because our guys are smart. If you date a hot guy from SF, you will probably bitch about how dumb and pointless he is. Yes, I speak from experience. If you are gay, then you are envied for the sheer joy that is the gay life here. The rumors that SF is gay are usually understatements. I met my closest friends through extracurriculars, co ops, and dorms. My dearest friend I met on the first day of class, and I love her to this day. Never ever ever not talk to someone you find will listen to you, because the energy that unites human beings in friendship is beyond your understanding. If I am up at 2AM on a Tuesday, I either have a paper due at 9 am, or I am at a party. Often I am trying to get food at 1:30, and get out of the line as the last place closes at 2. If I fail to get real food, I am at kingpin. Probability of drunkenness- 70%. What did I do last weekend? If I were at Cal, I probably worked in the morning, then did things I do not want to attach my name to the rest of the day. Or cuddled my girlfriend, who purred drunkenly in torn fishnets. Sunday night was party night, because no fool goes to Monday morning class after freshman year.
The most popular groups/organizations/clubs on campus are...um...I can't think of any. I guess the most popular team would be the football team. Yes, students in dorms often leave their doors open. Athletic events are popular, particularly among certain student communities, like those in the Greek system. There are tons of interesting lectures/films/musical events happening nightly at Berkeley, but many of these events are not that popular. Most of the events I went to (with the exception of musical events and the occasional big-name political commentator) had low student attendance, which was sad. The dating scene seemed to be pretty nonexistent. Most of the people I knew who were in relationships had met their significant other before coming to Berkeley or outside of school. The dating scene is simply a symptom of the larger awkward social climate at Berkeley; it often takes people a few drinks to interact with each other and be friendly. 2am on a Tuesday? I'm reading/working on a paper/writing a reading response. Some people party pretty frequently, while others not so much...it depends on the person. Like I said before, Berkeley is a "choose your own adventure" school, and if a person wants to party, the opportunities are there, mostly from Thursday night until Saturday night. Parties range from co-op themed parties and frat parties to your everyday (or "everynight"), red-cup-style house party. A Saturday night without drinking could be spent doing something in San Francisco, seeing a movie, going to a concert, going out to dinner, hanging out at home in your pajamas (and watching a $1 movie rental from Elephant Pharmacy), going to Yogurt Park, going to a party and not drinking, or, unfortunately studying.
The most popular groups and organizations on campus seem to be those that are either racially/ethincally affiliated, or those that are political. I was involved with a Sexual Health Education Group run out of the Berkeley Student Health Center. It was a great experience. We provided students with the opportunity to get their sexual health questions answered by means of appointments or drop-ins. We also did outreaches to interested groups. Stedents in the dorms do tend to leave their doors open when they're in their rooms and not studying. There is great interest in just about all activites UC Berkeley offers, including atheletics, guest speakers, and theater. The dating scene seems to be good. I met my former boyfriend in the dorms and dated him for over two years. Many of my friends are happy in their relationships. If I was awake at 2am on a Tuesday, I would be hanging out with my roommates probably. Every year there is a big bonfire before the Big Game against Stanford. Also, during finals week there is a "naked run" through the undergraduate library in which people literally run naked through the building, and people come to watch. People party every weekend (Thursday through Saturday usually). I don't think fraternities and sororities are very important, but I guess to some people they are. They're kinda lame in my opinion. Last weekend I hung out at the campus pub with friends, had a friend come over to hang out, and studied because I had two midterms this week. Next weekend should be more fun, because I'm done with midterms for now. On a Saturday night, you can hang out with friends, go to the movies, go to the city...you can pretty much do anything and have a fun time without drinking.
There are so many things to get involved in that not one particularly sticks out to me as most popular. I personally am involved in greek life, intramural volleyball, the Republican club, and the Relay for Life planning committee. Greek life is pretty important to the social scene at Berkeley. The frats have parties every weekend and its usually pretty hard to get in if you're not a member of the greek community yourself. So if you want to party, especially if you're a guy, I would strongly suggest going greek. If you're on an athletic team, that will also suffice. Cal athletic teams act as their own little fraternity and sorority houses. There is a baseball house, a crew house, a water polo house, etc, and they all throw parties. The athletes form their own little community since they spend so much time together. They all become really close. If you're not a greek or an athlete, you will probaly be going to smaller apartment parties. Or you can go to parties at the co-ops. Co-ops are really cheap student housing. The co-ops are an entirely different social scene that I personally am not too familiar with. But from my understanding, they consist mainly of of: drugs, orgies, and hippies. If you're not looking to party, there is plenty of other activities to do!! I have friends from the dorms freshman year who never drink. You can go to movies, poetry slams, plays, etc. The coolest thing is that we have San Francisco so close which is only a bart ride away. If you can't find anything to do in Berkeley there is a whole other huge city that awaits you.
-There are so many organizations and teams it is hard to say! I am just going to say Cal Band, Rally Comm, and the Asian American Business Association. Plus all athletic teams, of course. -Cal Band is amazing, but a big time commitment. I am so glad I did it. -I never lived in dorms -Athletic events like football, basketball and Rugby are very popular, the others have scarce attendance. More people come when we are playing Stanfurd. -I met my closest friends through band and through classes. -If I am awake at 2pm on a Tuesday I am either cramming for an exam (because I never stay up that late to do homework), or goofing off watching tv/hanging out with friends. -Too many to name! Big game week is a big deal though. -Partying? I think it happens more in the fall because of football. Hard to say, i don't party. -To me, Frats and sororities are not important at all, but for others they may be. -Last weekend I had some friends visit from my hometown. I showed them the campus (including the tree people and memorial stadium) and we also went to San Francisco for a day. -You can do a lot on a Saturday night that doesn't involve drinking. Go get food, stay in with friends, go to SF...i wish more people would realize this. -Off campus: shopping, eating at any of Berkeley's awesome eateries, go to SF, hiking, swimming, exploring the city...so many things...
Berkeley is situated in the middle of a cultural hub (Greek Theater!) and is very close to San Francisco and offers plenty of opportunities for theater performances and concerts. Last weekend, I attended "A Cappella Against AIDS Benefit Concert" and will be attending the University Symphony's spring concert this Friday. Other than performances, many clubs host social nights throughout the week. Football season is very important during the fall semester, and school spirit is apparent whenever Stanford is involved. Berkeley offers many opportunities for athletes. Guest speakers come to speak at Berkeley often, from academicians to politicians to movie stars to CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Sometimes these events are advertised; more often they're not. Some effort is required to stay in the loop. The Berkeley bubble can be quite powerful. Greek life on campus is not very prominent, except for rush season. The most prominent of fraternities and sororities are the pre-professional ones, which speak to Berkeley students' concern about job security and the future. Many of these pre-professional organizations hold forums and fairs throughout the year for employer-potential employee networking opportunities.
Many students here live in the dorms their first year. I am so glad that I did because I met my group of friends I have to this day. I've known people who hated the dorms because they found it overwhelming, because they hated their roommate, and hated the small spaces. I, however, got extremely close with MANY people as a result of the dorms. Living in the dorms a second year is usually for nerds...because who would want to pay for an overpriced room when you could find a cool place to live in the city of Berkeley? In my third year, I moved into the University Student Coops, which are AMAZING! They are houses varying in size - close to Berkeley's campus - that emulate the cooperative funky ethos of Berkeley. I lived in the largest coop, which was an old hotel converted into a coop. The housing in cheap, the people are fun. It is a place of belonging and a place to collectively make decisions about the house. Also, everybody knows coops have the best parties...Coops have events like house bbqs, casinos night, room to room parties, bounce houses, intramurral sports teams.
Groups of friends seem to emerge like a snowball. New people seem to roll in and out of social scenes. If you can't roll with the punches, its eary to get left behind. A lot of the strongest bonds tend to be formed by who you live with. Choosing a group of friends who has your back, and finding your ideal living situation with them is one of the most exciting aspects of Berkeley life, and one of the most unique things it has to offer. Whether its an apartment, a house, a frat, a co-op, there is ample opportunity to have meaningful living situations with people you care about. The popularity of different types of events, like concerts, football games, parties, is huge in every category. Berkeley is large enough to accomodate every scene. It truly is your choice. I'm not a football fan, but people who are fans tend to presume I am -- and I have no ambition to correct them. If they knew me we wouldn't have problems with each other. I have never been accused of lacking "golden bear spirit" except as a joke from close friends.