Apologies for the dearth of regular posts: Berkeley’s was a busy place during the Fall semester and Glasgow has been a very lazy place over the ‘Winter Break’.
I’d like to talk a little bit about the options available to students looking for accommodation in Berkeley.
I applied to the co-op system in early May, but barely moved on the waitlist (although EAP students get some priority, it’s fairly meagre compared to the preference granted to other groups, especially those who have lived in the co-ops before) and didn’t get a place in time for the Fall semester. The realization that I wasn’t going to get a place left me fairly lost as to what to do instead. Having decided that I’d like to know I had somewhere to stay before I left for the U.S., I applied to the university’s Residence Halls, the woman at reception told me on the phone that there was one room left, in Wada, a building for 3rd and 4th year students and transfers from other universities and colleges. This was approx. $4,000/semester, not including a meal plan. The co-ops are approx. $3,000/semester, including food. This was a pretty big setback to my budget.
Of course, there were other options available to me and, once I arrived in Berkeley, I met others who had utilised them.
One friend from Australia turned up with nowhere to stay and found a solution by going round all the fraternity houses in Berkeley and asking if they had any spare rooms. He found one he liked and now has a single room in a well-located frat for pretty cheap. Although he ended up becoming a brother of that fraternity, he was under no obligation to do so. However, while he managed to do this, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you bank on being able to do the same. He was the only person I met who’d done it. But, needless to say it is an option worth exploring, just don’t rely solely on it. Also, a fairly obvious point is that frats are mostly big drinking, noisy places, so if this doesn’t sound great to you then be careful what frat you choose.
Another form of accommodation is the renting of apartments around Berkeley. There are numerous rental sites online, and during international orientation week there were lots of people looking for potential flatmates to hunt for apartments with. In fact, there’s even an ‘International Apartment’ of about 10 exchange students who met in this way and rent a house together. So, although I’d have found it a little scary to hunt for an apartment in a new place, it is perfectly possible.
So, those two above were the options I could have pursued once I arrived in Berkeley. However, there are other options open to those applying in advance and hoping to have their accommodation sorted before their arrival in Berkeley.
One housing option you might have heard about is International House, or I-House. This is a big building occupied largely by international students but also by American students who fancy a change and the chance to meet people from outside of America. I-House is also where the international orientations are held in the initial week of the semester, and events for international students are held there throughout the year. The auditorium also hosts lots of lectures from guest speakers from around the globe, speaking about politics, world aid, lots of different things really.
When people hear about I-House they tend to be put off my the price (around $10-11,000/year I think, don’t take my word for it) and by the possibility that by staying there you risk socialising solely with international students and not meeting any Americans. To answer these two issues I’d first say that the I-House rates include food (3 meals/day), and aren’t all that much more expensive that other halls. Also, I-House is architecturally a much nicer environment than the other halls, with an auditorium, games room (where a lot of pre-drinking sessions and parties are held) and an amazing library (the envy of non-residents who frequently try to gain access). However, the rooms are pretty small. It is also, obviously, full of a diverse range of nationalities (many of the exchange students organise big trips and travel in groups based in I-House social groups) and hosts big events like the I-House Dance etc. As for the argument that you wouldn’t meet any Americans, there are many Americans living there, and there are many other ways to meet locals besides through your accommodation. Basically, it’s a great place to stay. It’s also really well located (close to campus, at the foot of the Berkeley hills, next to the Football stadium, near the frats, sororities, a few co-ops, other Residence Halls etc).