Last week—dd is a sophomore there, plus I’m an alum from the late 80s and we live nearby in SF.
- Where did you stay? Would you recommend it?
We obviously don’t stay overnight, but if I did I’d do a staycation at the Claremont or maybe an Airbnb in north berk, the hills or north oak.
- Where did you eat? Did you try any local specialties?
My daughter, who is a san francisco food snob and a damn good cook, says: “ idk off the top of my head cheap: top dog and yogurt park. medium: mezzo, toss. expensive: la Mediterranee.” I would add cheeseboard pizza, ippuku, Chez panisse, comal, iyasare.
- How did you get there? What’s the best transportation mean to get to-from the campus?
I alternate driving and BART, depending on time of day, how long I’m staying and how much I’m shlepping. I like the center st garage or just park street (and pay meter remotely with app or maybe park near rockridge station beyond low-hour areas and hop on college ave bus to get a feel for southside). Northside usually feels easy to park to me during the week.
- What was the campus vibe?
Lively, energetic and busy. Sometimes evenings are quieter. When we toured smaller liberal arts colleges, I sometimes wondered if school was in session, they seemed so empty compared to cal! Personally, I think the campus itself — the physical plant, the geography and the vibe — is one of cal’s best features.
- What did you think of the dorms?
Utter ■■■■ except for a handful of new ones for regents’ scholars, athletes and the extremely lucky. But having survived them myself, and witnessed my daughter survive them — she lived in a triple that was a converted double in an unrenovated building during Covid with no common rooms due to overcrowding and incompatible roommates who never left the room or slept — I have come to value the bonding and storytelling mileage they provide. In all seriousness…housing is an issue at most UCs and berk is no exception. Being near campus is convenient. Dd made a handful of friends there, but made more in other ways, which was different from my path. She didn’t need the transitional phase and so could have gone straight to apartment living, but many students appreciate dorm life. The food is famously bad, the quarters grim, the security meh. But it’s part of the gestalt. Ymmv
- What are some must-see things in or around campus?
Every library (esp doe and moffitt not also Asian art and some of the other small ones). The glade. Sather gate. The Greek. Memorial stadium. Greek row. Caffe strada. Walk along telegraph. Bampfa. Botanical garden. Tilden park. Shattuck and town center. College ave. Attend a sports event?
Dd says: “fav libraries social research (but we keep it secret), music library, environmental design library”
- How were the school facilities?
Fine? When I was a student, I always felt inspired by the grandeur. Even the weird and poorly executed details (dwinelle, anyone?) usually make for interesting trivia. I think it’s a very appealing campus with lots of
Inspiring moments and a sense of real history and accomplishment, even in the grimmer corners.
- Did you like it more or less than you thought you would? Why?
I’m pleased with the thoughtful, intentional efforts to build community, a sense of belonging and a more supportive academic culture since my time there. It’s always been a big, chaotic place where some thrive and some don’t, but the culture has shifted a bit so that at least pride in brutality is regarded as somewhat misplaced not every program is ultimately successful at that mission, but I appreciate them nonetheless. (Golden bear orientation, freshman seminars, decals and support for transfers come to mind). I think they should be clearer and more intentional about competitive vs leisure clubs, and also try to better fund clubs that are too big and ungainly to provide real services. We went to parents’ weekend the last two years and also the big game, and I was moved by the pride families felt in their students. Culturally, some colleges at cal are more mindlessly cutthroat than I’d like, though as many other programs are not (also? So much for the idea that you can’t have contact with profs or small classes at cal—my dd intentionally chose a major and classes that have had either lectures or discussions that were intimate and fostered relationships. So there is that.)
- Did anything surprise you?
Nope—but then I’ve had a friends-with-benefits type relationship with Berkeley for more than 30 years.