Berkeley or Another UC Campus for an Exchange Semester?

Hi, I’m an international student hopefully making it through the preliminary selection at my home university to attend UC. If I want to apply, I need to fill out three campus preferences, however, being international I cannot visit prior to sending in the application. I’ve read the campus atmospheres are really different so I was hoping someone could help :slight_smile:

My current number one (based purely on rankings/academics and location) is Berkeley, followed by UCLA and UCSD. I recently met someone attending UCSB and they really loved that so I’m kind of keeping that one in mind too.

The UC system seems really great to study, however, some things that worry me are the cutthroat environment and curved grading I read about. I’m an all right student (3.0 GPA alongside five committees, one board function and a pretty active (student association) social life the past 2.5 years) and willing to work hard but reading about sabotaging peers was just mind-boggling and I’m not sure I want to be in that kind of environment. Another thing that worries me is housing and getting into the classes I want since I’ve heard local students are prioritized over exchange students.

The environment I am in now is a 12,000 student university in a small town where everyone has at least one mutual other friend. It’s quiet but there’s lots to do if you take initiative and the teachers will always help you (after class) and we’re (almost) always on first-name basis. I’m a biotechnology major looking for a place to take upper-class biology classes, preferably micro-, cellular and genetic biology. I want to learn new things but also have time to experience the culture, see places and be socially active (very cliche, I know). I want to move to a more urban area than the 40,000-person town I am in now which is what attracts me to LA and the Bay. I like a chill friendly atmosphere and easy-going people who work hard but also know how to have fun and attend the occasional party. I also don’t have a car so a place where a car is not necessary would be great (although otherwise I’ll just have to befriend people who do have cars haha) and cycling is not life-threatening.

Based on this do you have any suggestions for my applications? I know all campuses will provide a great experience but I’m curious as to what you think based on the above. Sorry for the long story and thanks in advance!

UCSD would be the best, then UC Davis.
So perhaps pick between UCB and UCLA, add UCSD and UC Davis as 2nd and 3rd choices?
Check that housing is included in your program since it’s often super expensive in LA, the Bay area, San Diego…

UC Berkeley is a LARGE school (40,000+ between undergrad, grad, etc.) and very urban, with amazing eating options and access to so many places/activities. It is a weird mix of hippy and competitive, but I think the cutthroat reputation is inflated. I wouldn’t consider it much of a party school (although the frats/sororities/random houses of people try). However, getting around the Bay Area is easier using public transportation than it would be at UCLA (the Cal campus IS very hilly, so you don’t see a whole lot of people cycling on vs. TO campus and then chaining up somewhere). Cycling around the UCSB campus is THE preferred method of transport, but I can’t speak to off-campus travels. UC Davis is more rural, bike friendly and wayyyy cheaper than Berkeley or L.A., at least housing-wise. You may find that one school does not meet all of your criteria.

Thank you! I’ll carefully weigh my options if I get through selection.