Berkeley: 'hella' great!

25 January 2019

Jessie Barker studies Arts and Sciences and is at the University of California, Berkeley. Read on for road trips, culture shocks and a hella great time!

Jessie blog 1

Berkeley is hella great. “Hella”: Bay Area slang for “a lot” or “totally”. If you are lucky enough to come to Berkeley, you’ll find yourself hearing (maybe even using) this world a lot. And for me, it sums up my experience so far.


I was lucky enough to arrive in California with my Dad and go on a week-long road trip before I started at Cal (Berkeley and Cal are used interchangeably as you’ll come to know!) We started in San Francisco (which is only 30 minutes away and really easy to get to from Berkeley) and began our drive down the Highway 1 hugging the Pacific coast all the way down to L.A. Amongst our favourite spots were the Blue Sky Centre in New Cuyama desert, Carmel-By-The-Sea (Clint Eastwood is a former mayor!), Santa Barbara and L.A. Each place is so different from the last and there is so much to do in all of them; whether it’s swimming in the Pacific Ocean or tasting some of the best Mexican food outside of actual Mexico!

After a relaxing couple of days in Orange County, we headed inland to the Highway 395 and started our drive back to Berkeley. What was so amazing about this part of the drive was the variety of landscapes. We saw sandy beaches, high deserts (with temperatures of 101F) and tree-covered mountains all in one day. We spent the last few days in Mammoth and Lake Tahoe, easily the most beautiful and idyllic places I’ve seen while in California. If you’re into hiking, go here!


After a busy week away from my new home, I was excited to get stuck into my orientation week before classes started. Orientation was intense – there were a number of activities from 8am till 9pm everyday – but really useful for meeting new people and getting to know my surroundings. The campus is incredible; it’s over 1000 acres and if you’re looking for a green space to chill out between class, Berkeley has got you covered. In fact, it has some of the tallest eucalyptus trees in Northern California! A couple of years ago naked protesters posed against the trees in opposition to tree-clearing proposal…but this is nothing out of the ordinary for Berkeley. Home to the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s, political activism is in the university’s DNA.

Lastly, to finish my first blog, something that has really surprised me: the culture shock! I did not expect this considering that there would be no language barrier, and I kind of thought I knew what America was like from all the movies and TV I had watched. When people say Americans do everything bigger, they’re right. During orientation week, all the new students gathered in one of Berkeley’s (many) stadiums for their convocation. There were marching bands, cheerleaders, huge flags were waved about, and to top it off, all 10,000 of us sung the American national anthem. I honestly felt like I was witnessing the opening to the Super Bowl, and this was just my first week. 

By Jessie Barker