10 GIFs That Accurately Describe What It’s Like To Be A Student At UC Berkeley

If you’re a student at UC Berkeley, you know that as soon as you graduate, employers will come frolicking to your feet. Parents and siblings will come galloping to you with flowers and chocolates (or balloons, if that’s your thing), and student/federal/private loan companies will start demanding their interest fees/loan payments all of a student, after four years (give or take) of sweet silence. Of course, the academics, intimidating as they are, and coursework/college life can be quite challenging at times, especially during Finals Week, but Cal is also the No. 1 Public University in the US. Keep reading for 10 GIFs that accurately describe what it’s like to be a student at UC Berkeley.

Even as a golden bear, I guarantee I tried to make them relatable to every college student there is (though I hope that the crappy wifi-network at Berkeley, known as Airbears and Airbears2, is not relatable to most students!)

1. You know that there will always be one guy – if not a group or more – who screams to the top of his/their lungs outside Sproul Plaza.

No matter what day of the week it is – unless it’s extremely rainy or snowy (something that rarely happens in Berkeley) – there will always be that one guy with sunglasses or that voice amplifier thing (I call it ‘the funnel’) raising awareness of political issues on Sproul Plaza, the major center of student activity on campus. Honestly, political activism is a signature ubiquitism for Cal, and it’s something I can never get used to. That guy with shades scares me still in my sleep – even though Trump is yet to be inaugurated.

2. You know you will need caffeine when you have Finals from 3-10 pm – all in one day.

I don’t know if this is something common to UC schools, or if any school in the US even has exams at this time, but at Berkeley, such a Finals Schedule can turn out to be unfortunately common for many students. An Anthropology Final from 3-6 pm, with a one hour break in between, and then a Calculus 2 Final from 7-10 pm, could very well be Smith’s typical Finals Day Schedule for one day. I’m a nocturnal person – but that doesn’t mean that I’m all up for grabs when it comes to calculating Taylor polynomials at a time when I usually have supper/dinner. Don’t mess with the dress (ing) of my Caesar’s salad when it’s dinner time – not nice.

Plus, it’s just not cool to ask a perfectly young teenage student – some still aged 17 (like me) – to walk outside class to the dorms or off-campus apartments after 10 pm, or anytime well after dark.

Ahem, curfew still exists for some individuals in college. Or is that ‘antique’ nowadays?

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3. You know you’re at Cal when you carry two (and a half) pepper sprays in your bag while walking down People’s Park.

Berkeley’s proximity to Oakland means that safety is a constant 24/7 concern for all Cal students, including during the day. Since I’ve been commuting to campus this past semester, via a combination of BART and Amtrak trains, and AC Transit buses, I haven’t had to deal with such safety issues (yet), but I was a little cautious on the day I had a Final that ended at 10 PM.

Walking down Hillegass Avenue and waiting in the soggy rain next to the bus stop right in front of a smoke shop and behind a closed Peet’s Coffee shop gives me the creeps.

Once I move in to an off-campus apartment, I’ll make it a point to lock myself out after dark (even if that’s just 5 pm). My three cups of free sample Trader Joe’s Spiced Apple Cider/whatever is the current sample of the day, my Starbuck’s Frappuccino/600 calorie-plus Latte/whatever’s on promotion that day, and my midnight window shopping near thrift stores, can wait. I’m not paying $40,000 for nothing, particularly not for lack of security.

4. You love Berkeley because the semester system means longer breaks but also scarier Final Exams.

UC Berkeley is the only UC, along with UC Merced, that follows the semester academic system. This means that you have more time to get settled within the academics of the new classes (especially if it’s your first freshmen semester at Cal), since you won’t be on your toes all the time (at least not 80% of the time). Generally, the gaps in the semester system test schedules allow professors to more accurately assess students’ abilities by permitting time for more alternate assessments, like research projects and thesis papers or other more practical assignments. The semester has spread out breaks, so that students can enjoy them thoroughly. Quarter systems have summer-heavy breaks.

A short two week winter break that is packed with holidays (and hence family commitments and such) does not give one enough time to relax and unfold. In other words, the “Semester People” get out mid-May, while all the “Quarter System People” get out mid-June. Enough said.

5. You’re a UC Berkeley student when you meet an unknown student you had a planned rendezvous with, at the wrong MLK location.

Okay, maybe this does not accurately describe EVERY student at UC Berkeley but it certainly describes me and many freshmen who are not so familiar with campus perfectly.  When I used my Facebook Free & For Sale group to sell a mousepad to a fellow upperclassmen (perhaps a junior in CS), I spent nearly half an hour just searching for him on the wrong ‘branch’ of the Martin Luther King Junior coffee shop side.

There were two MLKs and two Eshleman Coffee Shops, all constructed opposite to each other? Talk about architectural confusion…How am I supposed to know that? (Please don’t mentally answer this. It’s a rhetorical question; let me be.)

6. Cal and Coffee are Married for Life.

UC Berkeley students know that coffee is not a sustainable replacement for sleep, but they sure ensure that it replaces sleep for at least two midterm seasons. It’s no wonder why there are at least a dozen different brands of coffee shops within one block of campus; of course, not all of them are equal in value. Some sell great coffee for cheap (Cafe Strada), some sell cheap coffee for enraging prices (Peet’s Coffee, and, in my personal opinion, Starbucks – the calorific king of coffee, except for the black brewed versions), and some sell coffee at extremely reasonable prices in EXACTLY RIGHT quantities and qualities (I’m referring to you, 7-Eleven).

Just like how there are some people in our lives whom we would never see without their signature watches, smiles, or earbuds/headphones, there are always those UC Berkeley students who would rarely see other Cal peers – or themselves – without a cup (usually Tall or Grande) of java firmly grasped within their hands.

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7. Pet Hugs During Finals and Dead Week

On the first Tuesday of each month from 12-1 PM during the fall and spring semesters, there is a “Pet Hugs” therapy dog event to provide stress relief to students. While this isn’t something I’ve yet pursued, I’ve heard of many students and friends who have, and who have highly APPRECIATED such a service being available to a student body that belongs to one of the most prestigious institutions in the world. Gaining such swag at such an amazing public university carries the price of high stress levels, which not only stimulate belly fat (I recommend you read about stress and increased cortisol level correlations if further interested in this topic), but also lead to lower grades, in the case of extreme stress levels.

Pets, some caressing, the feeling of warm and soothing puppy fur, and all else that goes with pet hugging, are sure to do the trick to minimize student stress (minus the shedding of the fur that comes along with this process/event)

8. UC Berkeley students know – or at least expect that the Free Study Spots and Nap Pods in Libraries are all OCCUPIED.

Okay, I admit this may not always be the case, and it may not always describe every single UC Berkeley student, but it sure describes MOST scenarios. There’s even a website for good ‘nap spots’ or “REST ZONES” on campus.

When I first read this website about the abundance of napping spots on campus, I thought that this must just be a coincidence, or a generosity of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) staff or of UC Berkeley alumni/faculty.

When I visited the Meditation Room of Eshleman Hall, one of the napping spots on campus (also one of the sole prayer areas on campus for those who wish to comfortably practice their religious faith – Muslims are commonly seen praying here), I saw one student in complete HIBERNATION MODE during Finals Week, with a gigantic plastic bag with all of his belongings/clothes/food items/intimate attire, etc. in it (no offense intended!). I didn’t see any toiletries though, which frightened me, but perhaps that’s why I ran out of the room soon after discovery of that fact.

Of course, the other napping spots on campus have more napping pods available that don’t get occupied so easily, unless students ‘break the rules’ and occupy them for longer than stated. But honestly, who in Cal can commit such a crime? (wink, wink…)

9. You hate the thought of even visiting the Financial Aid Office because of its ‘student-friendly’ hours.

If it is not clear, I am using sarcasm here; hours are designed to conflict with most typical class schedules. The Office opens Monday to Friday, from 9 am to noon and then from 1- 4 pm, with the one hour lunch break in between.
However, beware my Bears, that these are not the true “hours of operation” of this clerical institution; an experienced (or unlucky) student knows that the office, in fact, in Cal reality, opens at 8 am – when the long queue of students starts forming like a snake of stellar students waiting in line to purchase their staple diet consisting of Chipotle burritos (this might be an exaggeration, but is extremely close to the truth of traffic at the office) – and closes more often than not, at only 11 am.
This two hour window never suited my class schedule. Whenever I went to the office, which was thrice a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday – the days I had class at Cal in the Fall Semester), I arrived as soon as I could. The first day, I was too late. The second day, I arrived thinking that, since it closes at 4 pm, arriving at 1 pm should be a comfortable time. I was dreadfully wrong; the receptionist said that they had “reached full capacity” at 11, and had stopped accepting customers since then. Oh, so students are customers. The third day, I skipped my most important class (Calculus) and went to the office at 8 AM sharp, already aware of the line, since my questions were urgent in order to solve important financial matters relating to my account. To my dismay, they were CLOSED that day. The odds were definitely not in my favor that entire week.
Oh, and did I mention how Cal students also hate calling Cal Student Central because they always hang up on you despite multiple calling attempts? Yeah, that’s a perk.



10. UC Berkeley Students “Run, Click, Smile” (RCS)

Of course, there are plenty other things that I could include that accurately portray the lives of UC Berkeley students, like:

How they keep their mobile phones or smartphones hidden firmly inside their underwear/heels (for those lovely ladies who dare to commit such a brilliant task at such a hilly campus area) whenever they walk past the homeless folk that blanket Berkeley’s borders and outskirts – especially People’s Park (a park located off Telegraph Avenue), how food apps similar to UberEats that are exclusive to UC Berkeley students like Hooked and Kiwi form the staple diet of most students, how bCourses/Cal Central webpages are designated as the wallpaper or homepage of most student’s laptops (grading system websites/key university websites), and how Berkeley students smile at the positive and negative prospects – depending upon the assigned date – of the Phase I and II System of choosing classes at Cal (having unit limits to choose courses as well as specific dates to enroll in them, with two different time periods or “phases” to do so; the later the dates assigned, the less likely one is able to enroll in the respective class or get off the waitlist if there is one for a specific highly demanded lecture/discussion section).


Featured photo source: google.com and danieltakeshi.github.io
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