NorCal Living and Decal Classes

6 February 2019

We catch up with Jessie at UC Berkeley as she discusses North Californian weather, student-led classes and gives further insight into co-op living.

jessie blog 3

Wow, how am I already just seven weeks away from the end of my year abroad? Since writing my last blog, I’ve finished 1st semester, been home for Christmas and got through 10 weeks of 2nd semester. 

The end of 1st semester was tough as I had three essay deadlines and an exam to revise for (they don’t call it “finals week” for nothing), but I pushed through and got to enjoy a REAL break over Christmas. Since all deadlines are due before the end of semester and you are not set any work over the break (please take note UCL!) I got to actually enjoy it without feeling guilty about watching Christmas films for days on end. I caught up with friends and family, and spent time in London which I’d dearly missed, but after a quick three weeks I was on my way back to Berkeley!


Now you’d think the weather would be warm and sunny, but apart from a brief heatwave in January, it’s been pretty mediocre with lots of overcast and rainy days. Take note study abroad-ers, NorCal is not SoCal and it does get cold in California! However, this has meant I’ve spent more time visiting museums and going to the cinema (things I’d rather not do when it’s nice outside). It’s been exciting to see the Oscar front runners before the Oscars ceremony in March as these films usually come out much later in the UK. The benefits of living in Hollywood-land. Nonetheless, it’s been warm enough to visit the famous Muir woods across the Golden Gate Bridge and go walking amongst the huge red woods! 

I’ve also been enjoying my classes a lot which are very different to those I took in 1st semester. As I fulfilled a lot of my class requirements last semester, I decided to take a couple of different ones including a drawing class (the Art department here is great!) and a ‘decal’. ‘Decals’ are student-run courses at Berkeley where students create and facilitate their own classes on a huge variety of subjects, from ‘Philosophy of Friendship’ to ‘Massage Therapy 101’. They’re a great way to meet the department unit requirements (mine are 13 per semester) as they are usually just 1 or 2 units, so the workload is minimal but the subject matter is fascinating. My decal is called ‘Deconstructing Whiteness’ and the class meets one evening per week to discuss articles, watch videos and generally discuss critical race theory. I love being in an environment where this kind of learning is possible, and if I’d known about decals sooner I’d have definitely taken one last semester too! (Check out the website - https://decal.berkeley.edu). 

Muir Woods

This semester I’ve also learnt that co-op living isn’t always smooth sailing, and tensions can arise from out of nowhere when 60 people live under one roof. Certainly, it is an intense and very communal way of living. I was quite glad to have a respite from it when my mum visited and we stayed in an Airbnb together, but after a few days I began to miss the craziness of my co-op! I’m actually writing this blog from another Airbnb, in L.A. where I’m spending Spring Break with my roommate. So far, we’ve explored Venice Beach and Santa Monica, and we have plans to visit museums, Downtown and go hiking…more on that in my final blog post!

By Jessie Barker