I’m moving out of the Residence Halls this semester and moving into Davis House, a medium sized co-op housing 50-ish people. My reasons for doing so were both financial and social, the former of which I have already mentioned. Socially, I found Wada a little suffocating. The people who stayed there were mainly transfer students who didn’t really know anyone at Berkeley yet, but who were quite mellow socially due to their being 3rd and 4th year students rather than eager freshermen. Also, the layout of Wada (it is composed of lots of mini-suites, 2 rooms sharing 1 kitchen and a bathroom, essentially a tiny flat) wasn’t socially conducive, encouraging people to stay in their suite. However, this is by no means standard for all Residence Halls, most don’t have mini-suites and are more social, I know people who live in other halls and really enjoy it. However, a lot of their fellow residents are freshmen and sophomores, which a few of them found a little awkward at first.
One key difference between Res Halls and other forms of accommodation is the presence of R.A.s, basically wardens living on every corridor to make sure nothing happens that violates Residence Halls policies. These can be intrusive and harsh, or chilled out and friendly, and are a key difference between the Res Halls and other forms of accommodation in Berkeley.
Although I said in part 1 that I was told that there was only one room left in the Res Halls, when I arrived in Berkeley there seemed all of a sudden to be lots of vacancies. Thus lots of international students were able to move into the halls even though they’d been told there weren’t vacancies before they’d arrived in Berkeley. This might just have been a coincidence, that lots of people suddenly cancelled their contracts with the halls before term started, I don’t know.
Also, be wary of signing up with the Residence Halls on the assumption that you can cancel your contract at any time. Although I think you can do so before the Fall semester starts, it becomes more difficult to do so, or at least this is what they tell you to try and put you off from doing so. I applied for a cancellation and didn’t get it for a month. The day before my request was granted one of the admin staff told me it was ‘virtually impossible’ that I’d be granted a cancellation. They run the halls like a business, so be prepared for them to be quite stubborn, or at least to put on a front of being so.
The last form of accommodation I need to discuss is the co-ops. These are my personal favourites. There are around 18 of these scattered around Berkeley. The basic principle is that these co-ops aim to keep rent and living costs low through runningand maintaining their houses co-operatively, and ordering food collectively. The business is run almost exclusively by students. There’s something of a rivalry between the co-ops and the fraternities, with the co-ops seeing the frats as lame sports jock douchebags while the frats see the co-opers as smelly stoner vegan hippies. Needless to say neither stereotype is entirely accurate.
The co-ops range from small quiet studious places to huge houses hosting massive and infamous parties. Most are a combination, supplying peace and quiet when you need it, while being fairly outgoing and sociable. If you’re not sure about living at a co-op, you can just eat your meals there by taking up a boarding contract (this is what I did in the Fall semester). They offer 5-day, 7-night, or every-meal contracts.
That’s essentially all the impartial information I can give you about accommodation in Berkeley. Hope it comes in useful, if you have any questions just ask. Oh, an if you’re going to apply to Res Halls or the co-ops or I-House then the most stress free way of doing so is to apply pretty far in advance. Like I said about the co-ops, I was on the waitlist for months and still didn’t get in in time for Fall.