Co-op Culture and San Francisco Living
5 February 2019
In her latest Blog from the University of California Berkeley, Arts and Sciences student Jessie talks co-op culture, Greek life and gives us an update on an action packed semester!
One of the biggest parts of my year abroad so far has been living in the Berkeley Student Cooperative (“co-op”). I’d heard about it from previous study-abroaders and it has been a life-saver! Rent is pretty extortionate in Berkeley and on top of that, it’s typical to share rooms with one or two other students. However, the co-ops are amongst the cheapest (and coolest) student accommodation options. Originally founded in 1933 during the Great Depression to help students who could not find affordable housing (sound familiar?), the co-op’s mission is to provide quality, low-cost, cooperative housing. Each house is democratically run by us and the house managers (students who are elected each semester) and we all contribute a few hours of labour per week to keep the accommodation costs down. Some of the workshifts are really fun actually; these include organising the pantry, collecting bread from the bakery and ‘cook shifts’ in which 2 or 3 co-opers make dinner for the whole house. This is the other great thing about the co-op system – all food is included in your rent! Dinner is made for the house 6 nights a week, and there is always a pantry full of fresh food to make your other meals. The co-op culture is really something special – it’s laidback and friendly; there are themed houses such as ‘People of Colour’, ‘LGBTQIA & Queer’ and ‘Vegetarian/Vegan’ so you’ll find your perfect fit. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, the only thing I’d recommend is to apply ASAP! You can always email me to find out more.
Another housing option is the better known ‘Greek system’ which includes fraternities and sororities. I don’t know a lot about them, but I went to a frat party in my first week and it was exactly as I’d expected! Huge American flags were emblazoned on walls; red cups; beer pong!
As well as frat parties and co-op socials, there’s a lot of fun to be had in Berkeley outside of campus. Just a short bus ride away, or a long walk through the famous Berkeley Hills mansions, lies Tilden Regional Park. This area has some of the best views of the entire Bay area including the San Francisco skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge. You can visit the Botanical Gardens, go hiking, and take a dip in Lake Anza all in one afternoon.
There are also great music, comedy and art shows in Berkeley and the wider Bay Area. Berkeley’s Greek Theatre hosts some fantastic acts and is an incredible venue; it’s an 8,500-seat open-air amphitheatre so shows feel really intimate, yet grand at the same time. I saw The Shins in September and it was my favourite concert to date.
Alongside exploring the Bay Area, uni work has also kept me really busy this semester. Unlike UCL’s 3 x 10 week terms (otherwise called the ‘quarter system’), Berkeley operates on the ‘semester system’ so there are 2 x 15 week terms. Plus, there is no ‘reading week’, so the first break I had was Thanksgiving which was about 3 weeks before the semester ended. Sound intense? It was! There are benefits however; I only have two sets of midterms and finals, and I can get really in depth in my modules. But this means if you aren’t keen on a module, you’ll have to grit your teeth for longer. Luckily, I’ve absolutely loved my classes. I can’t wait for second semester!