In my Berkeley report I try to focus on tips that have been less mentioned in the other reports. In addition, I will not deliver a continuous text but work with “bullet points” in order to include as much information as possible for you.
My first big tip: No matter which sessions you take, save yourself the scramble with the visa. That costs over 300 € and a lot of effort and time. Let it be! For example, if you want to do sessions A + D, go in with the tourist visa. The problem is that, of course, you can only stay a few days after the end of the sessions without a visa before you have to leave the country again. With a tourist visa, the limit is reached after 90 days. I spent a full 12 weeks in Berkeley and applied for a visa because I wanted to go on vacation for a few more weeks afterwards. But the effort for it and the costs for this visa let me say in retrospect: I would not want to do it again.
My second big tip: Take a EXACTLY look at the timetable. Write down the most interesting courses and see if they fit together in terms of time! An incredible number of courses overlap in time, which can be quite annoying. So make a clear decision in advance which courses you want to take. Look out for alternative courses for the “worst case”! If you drop courses in the first week, which can happen, you need alternatives that are timed quickly. That doesn’t apply so much to the people without a visa. It doesn’t matter how many units you take. But here it comes: As soon as you have a visa and simply drop courses without adding new ones, you endanger your visa status !!! That is also one of the reasons why I advise against a visa! Depending on the occupied sessions, you need a minimum number of units! This means that, for example, you have to take at least 10 units in sessions A + D and at least 5 units in each session. That in turn means at least 2 courses per session! And that’s a lot of work! Especially if you have chosen business courses. Don’t underestimate that. 2 courses are a lot of work. It is possible! But we sometimes sat in front of our desks until late at night! Many courses involve group work, which can be very time consuming. 2 courses are a lot of work. It is possible! But we sometimes sat in front of our desks until late at night! Many courses involve group work, which can be very time consuming. 2 courses are a lot of work. It is possible! But we sometimes sat in front of our desks until late at night! Many courses involve group work, which can be very time consuming.
The courses themselves are highly recommended. Good to very good lecturers, lots of input. But the books are expensive! Hence my next tip: As soon as you know which courses use which books … not in the Cal-Store or Ned’s Bookstore. If you can get used books in good condition there – ok. But otherwise immediately go to Amazon.com and order the “Used Books” online. But with fast shipping! Otherwise it can easily take a week and you have to catch up too much in a short time. That way, you can easily save $ 20-80 per book. Because the books (especially business literature) are much more expensive here than here (up to $ 200!).
Accommodation: Are you fans of single rooms? Me too. So apply to the I-House. In the Residence Halls you get almost only double and triple rooms, because the single rooms are reserved for “the general public” for reasons that are not understood. The I-House is not great, but ok. The room is sparsely furnished, the mattress pretty bad, the washrooms are in the corridor and acceptable – as long as you don’t have any Indians living in the corridor. You have a very special kind of intercultural experience. The doors that you have to close carefully so that they don’t make a noise are quite annoying. However, many people are so insensitive that they jump out of bed in the first few nights when someone slams the door again instead of closing it carefully. I hope for you that you get nice neighbors. Otherwise you have to complain. The best thing to do is to go to the “Front Office” right away, and they’ll take care of it.
About the food in the I-House: Many think it’s somewhat disastrous, I think it’s really ok. Sometimes there are bad days, but most of the time it’s absolutely fine. But my big tip: Your credit on your “Meal Cards” is not enough to eat 2-3 times a day! Many are not aware of this! If you swipe the card at the entrance, you can see how much you have left. It is not enough for the whole time! So go to the subway or a restaurant in between and save credit. They are also a good change from I-house food!
There is a printing station in the I-House. During session A there is not as much going on here as in session D. Then the station is often manned. And if you have to print a lot and always have to run down for it … that’s just annoying! Hence my next tip: As soon as you have internet; order a b / w laser printer! Mine was $ 60, worked wonderfully and was so easy on my nerves – it was worth every penny!
The Internet in the I-House is one of those things: you run to such a small sales booth on the “G-storey” and buy your access. For $ 40! These are things at the beginning where you only think: “rip off”. And in many places you feel ripped off at the beginning: copy card, internet access, bed linen, etc. But that goes away after 1-2 weeks. And the internet is reasonably fast, after all.
What you should definitely do: Membership in the gym! It is by far the lowest “fee” you have to pay for anything here: $ 10! For a full three months! And there really is everything: weights, squash, basketball, badminton, elliptical trainers, treadmills, swimming, and much more.
You should definitely not miss the introductory meeting within the first few days. There you will also be shown where and how to apply for your Cal1 cards. You need it for everything: as a future access card in the I-House, for the gym, for the bus ticket, etc.
If you go out to San Francisco in the first few days – put on sunscreen! Even when it’s cloudy. The sun is extremely strong here. The climate is often relatively mild to cool. But the sun is often underestimated – especially in San Francisco. I’ve seriously seen skin surfaces as red as lobster.
So much for my tips – I hope they will help you. I can only recommend the Summer Sessions in Berkeley: It’s a great experience, you meet a lot of interesting people and you can ‘take away’ a lot from the courses.