Residence hall life hacks

Berkeley Dorms
File/Staff

Welcome to UC Berkeley, a place that will gift you with football games full of school spirit, friends that are some of the best people you will ever meet, undue stress and all nighters and Renaissance architecture. The next four years of your life will be a whirlwind of fun, excitement, disappointment, stress, but most importantly, of growth. Who you’ll be when you leave UC Berkeley will definitely not be the same person you were when you entered — and that’s OK, it’s all a part of the journey. The very first place you will meet more people than you thought possible and have experiences that will both challenge and excite you, is the residence halls. Thus, we at the Clog have laid out some tips and tricks for you to get the most out of your experience in the dorms.

Be open-minded and considerate

We can tell you right now that you will not only meet, but may even live with, someone who doesn’t share the same views or opinions as you on any topic. But that’s really the beauty of coming to a place like UC Berkeley. Your entire life up until now has likely been around people who are similar to you. So, coming to a place as open-minded as UC Berkeley means that you’ll come into contact with an array of diverse individuals at every turn. Be welcoming towards your roommates, and by extent, your floormates, because their views on various matters will change your outlook on life. Whether it’s something as small as brushing your teeth after rather than before breakfast, or as big as opening your eyes to a different perspective on something you were adamant about your whole life.

That goes along with being considerate. Berkeley Housing tries its best to match students up based on similar basic living qualities, such as what time you wake up and go to sleep, and how clean you like to keep your room. Besides the fact that there is so much more to living with a person than just waking up at the same time, there are also times when you may not be matched up with someone in this way. If you’re a night owl and your roommate is an early riser, be considerate if you come back at 2 a.m. and your roommate is fast asleep for their 8 a.m. class. Don’t turn on lights or slam doors. In fact, you should probably talk about basic rules and etiquette with your roommate(s) within the first few days of living together.

Open doors make happy floors

There’s a saying in the dorms, “Open doors make happy floors.” If you’re comfortable with it, leave your room doors propped open (only when you’re there), as an indication that you’re fine with people stopping by and having a chat whenever they’d like. This is a great way to liven up your floor life and to get to know the people who you’ll spend the next year sharing a bathroom with.

Also remember that it’s completely okay if your floormates don’t become your “best friends for life.” College isn’t always like it’s portrayed in the movies (though our football games really are just as fun and full of even more spirit) and there are thousands of other people on campus who you may identify with more. Take the time and effort to meet new people every day and you definitely won’t regret coming to campus. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean you should come back to the dorms and just hide out in your room until the next morning. Take the effort to get to know your floormates and you won’t be disappointed — get a group together and head to the gym, or make plans to eat dinner together that evening.

Whether you are nervous and anxious, or pumped-up and beyond excited (or more likely a mix of the two), your floormates are probably going through the exact same thing. Show some kindness, give each other some support, and don’t try too hard to be someone you’re not — you can only become friends with people you truly enjoy being around. Plus, it’s just exhausting to keep up something that isn’t yourself.

Gender-inclusive bathrooms

The majority of students come from high schools where there are set bathrooms for males and females. Coming to UC Berkeley and finding out that every floor (except the all-female and all-male floors, as well as Stern Hall) has only one bathroom for everyone can be quite of a shock, and it’s probably something your parents will be anxious about. But it’s really not that big of a deal, and you’ll settle with the idea within just a few nights. It’s really not that different from sharing a bathroom at home with both males and females.

Plus, sharing a bathroom with your floormates is a very quick way to bond. Coming back to the dorms after a long and tiring day and meeting a fellow floormate in the bathroom will likely end up in a comforting conversation that you really needed to hear. Getting to know each other while brushing your teeth at midnight will end up with you sharing and hearing some pretty funny or heartfelt, but definitely amazing, stories. 

Take full advantage of meal points

If there’s one thing that all freshmen take for granted and most upperclassmen wish they hadn’t, it’s meal points. Living in the dorms automatically comes with a meal plan and it definitely won’t take long to become bored of eating the same old food every day. However, be aware that you don’t have to constantly eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the closest dining hall to you. Instead, venture out and try all of the dining halls available — each one serves a different variety of food. It’s a good idea to check the Cal Dining website ahead of time because the menu at each dining hall is updated every morning. Go wherever the food sounds best to you!

That being said, don’t only limit yourself to the dining halls. They’re definitely the way to go if you want to get the most out of your points, but the cafes run by Cal Dining around campus provide some really tasty and healthy options as well. Do keep in mind that these places are a la carte and not a buffet, so one dollar equals one meal point there.

But be warned — not having to spend money on coffee every morning can very quickly form a habit that you may regret your next year when meal points become actual cash.

UC Berkeley is a pretty amazing place, and that can be credited to the people you meet and the memories you make here. Dorm life will be one of your first, if not one of the most important, introductions you’ll have to being a UC Berkeley student. The people you’ll meet come from every corner of the globe and will have stories, experiences and personalities that you didn’t even know were possible. Take it all in, try new things and enjoy your time there while you can, because it definitely doesn’t last forever.

Contact Jenisha Sabaratnam at [email protected].