Editor’s note: Last year, The Daily Californian interviewed five UC Berkeley freshmen about their housing situations. This year, The Daily Californian followed up with those same five students to follow up on their housing journeys. Follow up in next year’s Housing Issue to see where they end up.
The Daily Californian: You mentioned that you lived in Unit 1 last year. What does your current housing situation look like?
Gianina Wicaksono: I’m currently living across from Unit 2 on Dwight Way, only a block farther away from Unit 1. It’s a pretty good situation. I’m living with three other people in a two-bedroom apartment. I live in a double, which is much better than the triple I was in last year.
DC: Why did you decide to live where you do now?
GW: My roommates and I were looking at the important factors in choosing housing and decided that location was our top priority. We just found a place that happened to be super close to campus and picked it because it was pretty cheap.
DC: Last year, we interviewed both you and your former roommate, Jessica Mendoza. Are you still roommates?
GW: I’m not living with Jessica anymore. Her living situation worked out earlier than mine did, and I had already committed to another group by the time she secured her housing situation.
DC: What was the transition like from Unit 1 to your apartment?
GW: To be honest, it wasn’t that great. It was super last-minute — I literally used boxes and trash cans for cheap storage because I didn’t want to pay $200 for storage when I went back to New York for the summer. The transition was difficult at first, but I think it’s manageable if you plan out your time.
DC: How do you like this space compared to your dorm in Unit 1?
GW: I definitely like the apartment better. I don’t think anyone will ever say they miss living in the dorms because of the space. My apartment’s a lot better. We have a living room and our own balcony — it’s pretty nice. The laundry situation is also a lot better.
I miss the study spaces available in the units for sure, though, because when my roommates have friends over, it’s not ideal for studying. Since I live close to Unit 2, though, I just run across the street and study there. Overall, I definitely prefer the apartment lifestyle over living in the units.
DC: What was the process like to find housing? Was it difficult?
GW: Yes and no. There were a lot of openings, and my roommates and I toured a lot of potential apartments, but we had a budget and wanted a good location, so that narrowed down our choices. The most time-consuming part was the application process. If you’re looking for housing, I think it would really help to know someone who’s already in a building so you can refer to them for advice.
DC: Have you thought about housing for next year?
GW: That’s actually a very good question. I’m moving out next year because my roommate is moving out. Twenty-four hours before I had to enter my statement of intent for housing, she told us she was moving out, so I was stuck with either trying to find another roommate or being stuck with $13,000 worth of rent, so I decided to move out. I found an apartment that’s $100 cheaper per month, and it’s less than a block away from my current apartment, so everything worked out.
Jessica Mendoza: Unit 1
DC: When we interviewed you last year, you were living in Unit 1. What does your current living situation look like now?
Jessica Mendoza: This year I’m living kind of far away — my apartment is next to Cheese Board. I live in kind of a big apartment because there are six of us. It’s furnished and nice, but it’s also really expensive. The location is the biggest problem. It takes about 30 minutes to get from my house to Pimentel or wherever my first class of the day is.
DC: Why did you decide to live where you do now?
JM: I had a big group of friends that wanted to live together. Once we found this place, we stuck to it because we were excited that it was furnished and we didn’t have to do a lot in terms of moving in. It also seemed like a nice area since it’s on Northside.
DC: How do you like this space compared to your Unit 1 dorm?
JM: It’s pretty nice to have a lot of room because there were three of us in the dorms, and I was often trying to cut my tomatoes on top of my desk and it was just stuffy. Here I have a kitchen, a living room and two bathrooms. I can bring a lot more stuff with me that’s more personalized to what I like — it makes me feel more comfortable and at home. Our apartment is also pretty close to Safeway, so we can get our groceries and cook whenever we want to.
DC: Have you thought about housing for next year? Do you think you’ll stay in this space?
JM: We’re actually in the process of signing a lease for our new apartment. There will be four of us instead of six of us, but we’re still going to be under the same company as last year because we liked the idea of having a furnished apartment. We had to negotiate a lot about the price, but were able to do so because we had connections. It’s good that we got to negotiate because this place is close to campus. It’s located on the edge of campus on Hearst Avenue, so it’s a big improvement from last time where we lived 30 minutes away.
DC: You mentioned in your interview last year that you were applying for campus housing for this year. Were you able to receive housing? What is your housing situation now?
Shannon Hong: I’m currently living at I-House. I did apply for Berkeley campus housing with one of my friends, but we didn’t get anything close. We got the apartments or something but it was really expensive. I don’t think we were down to do that so we decided to room separately. She’s also living on Warring, which is very close to where I live.
DC: How did you get housing in I-House?
SH: It’s an application process. It’s pretty similar to the one that you apply for Berkeley campus housing with. I think it’s due later though – in April or something. It was really accessible. I think the only caveat is you need junior standing, so I did have junior standing after a semester and it was like “all right, might as well.” So I applied. What I love about I-House is that everyone is from everywhere. There’s undergrads, grad students, visiting lecturers — so it’s a lot of fun to be in that type of community.
DC: How does living at I-House compare to living in Unit 2?
SH: I would say freshman housing is always very different from any other housing experience because you’re always with people who are also freshmen. It’s the first time they’re there and they’re wide-eyed and very excited. Being in I-House is different. Everyone is just as excited to be here because for a lot of them, they’re going to be there only one semester or one year because there’s a lot of exchange students. Everyone there is older … and also for the people who are coming in, a lot of the times it’s their final year of college. The overall atmosphere is more mature, but people are just as down to have fun. I think it’s really funny because during the fall a lot of times it’s their first time visiting a fraternity. And it’s a whole bunch of 22-year-olds who are like, “Let’s go see the fraternity life of America. Is the United States just what it’s made out to be in films?” And one of my friends that I met was like, “I rolled onto campus in fall and I was just hearing loud music blaring” because Delta Kappa Epsilon is right in front of I-House.
DC: How does the size of your room compare to Unit 2?
SH: I-House is very nice because there’s dining in it and then you have a lot of very cool events like coffee hours and what-not. But the size of the physical room is very small. I think if you’re an undergrad, you have to live in a double and the double is like the space of a triple in the units … It’s basically a bunk bed and two desks.
DC: How does your roommate compare to last year?
SH: My roommate last year was great. I don’t know what she’s doing right now, but she’s cool. Same this year. I wasn’t very close to either of them, I’m still not really close to my roommate because most of my social life is outside of my room. I’m not there a lot. In fact, I’m there very little. We coexist peacefully.
DC: What are your housing plans for next year?
SH: I want to study abroad in the spring, so that makes signing a contract very difficult for anything else. I’m considering living in my sorority for a semester or staying in I-House. Or doing something else where I sublet out for someone else who is studying abroad during the (fall) and … then we switch.
Diego Orellana: Stebbins Hall
DC: Last year you lived at the co-ops at Stebbins Hall. What does your current housing situation look like?
Diego Orellana: I’m still living in Stebbins Hall this year. I decided to stay because when I started as freshman in fall 2016, I made most of my friends here in the house. I really formed a lot of close relationships with people who lived here, and we decided we wanted to stay here for as long as possible.
DC: How does your housing experience compare to what you experienced last year?
DO: Because of the way students constantly move in and out and between the co-ops, the culture changes very drastically semester to semester. That’s also partly due to the quality and dedication of our social managers every semester. Right now, one of them is one of my best friends, and they’re doing a great job of making sure that everyone feels included. The culture changes depending on the people that end up together semester to semester.
DC: Although you don’t live in an apartment, drawing from what you’ve heard from your friends in off-campus housing, how does experience of living in a co-op differ from that of living in an apartment?
DO: The majority of the time I think I’m definitely in a better financial situation than my apartment friends are in terms of housing. Some friends are paying around $10,000 a year for housing without food, and I’m paying $7,000 or less for housing with food included. If you need cheaper housing and affordable food, that’s all provided at the co-ops. On the downside, because we’re low-income housing, we have to reduce a lot of other potential expenses. For example, we don’t hire people to clean for us — we clean for ourselves. Because we’re students and we’re busy or lazy sometimes, … co-ops are a little less clean than other places. I have friends in Martinez Commons living in pristine conditions because people come in and clean the apartments. Other than that, I think it’s a very good setup. Not only do we have access to food 24/7, but we also have one meal a day made by other students.
DC: You mentioned that you stayed in the same co-op as last year. Is it hard staying in the co-ops from year to year?
DO: No. It’s hard to get in the co-ops because people say the co-ops sound like a very cool, close-knit space, and it’s also low-income housing. Ever since 2009, when they implemented a system that gives low-income students and people of color a step up on the waitlist, we’ve see an improvement. We used to have about 20 percent low-income students, and now we have around 50 percent. The hardest thing is getting in the co-ops. After that, you can pretty much stay as long as you want, given that you sign your contract and pay rent in a timely manner.
DC: What does your housing search look like for next year?
DO: Right now is the time when I would be considering switching houses, but I definitely want to stay in the co-ops. I’m staying over the summer, so housing is a bit different because some houses are open and some are closed during that time, and some offer food and some don’t. Here at the co-ops, I feel like I’ve made a considerable number of friends and I don’t want to experience being the new kid again. Wherever I go, I just want to be around friends.
DC: Last year you lived in the Clark Kerr dorms. What is your current housing situation?
Inaara Charolia: I am currently living with three other girls from my floor last year in an apartment in Downtown Berkeley. I’m sharing one room with my roommate from last year, and the other two girls are sharing the other bedroom. We’re about 15 to 20 minutes from Sproul Plaza, which is similar to Clark Kerr, so it wasn’t that big of a change for us.
DC: How does your current living situation compare to living at Clark Kerr last year?
IC: I enjoyed my time in Clark Kerr, but I think it’s a lot better having the space, and being in an apartment is definitely a lot better, especially with food. It’s nice to cook your own meal and have a fridge that’s a decent size. The area is nice — there aren’t many things close by at Clark Kerr. But here, there are a lot of nearby restaurants. If I forget to pack or make something, I can just run and buy something.
DC: What was the transition like going from Clark Kerr to an apartment?
IC: It was a little confusing and rushed finding a place and figuring it all out, especially finding storage for my stuff. Finding a place that met our needs –– or at least most of our needs –– as a group was a challenge for sure.
DC: You mentioned that your groups had specific needs. What type of needs, and what did you prioritize?
IC: Safety was definitely a big one. Pricing for some people was also a bigger deal than (for) others, though proximity to campus was the No. 1 priority — we wanted to make sure our apartment wasn’t too far from campus.
DC: What was the process like to find housing last year?
IC: We all were kind of split up. As a group, we agreed that everybody would try to find three apartments that they’d be really happy to live in. We just looked online on apartments.com and whatnot — each person had a different approach. I asked around and looked online, which is where I found the apartment we’re living in right now. Some people try to find seniors that are moving out, which I think is the ideal situation. It’s a lot easier if you can find a situation like that.
DC: What does your housing situation look like for next year?
IC: I’m going to be staying in the apartment. One of the girls is moving out, so we’re going to be finding someone to replace her.
Assistant news editor Sydney Fix contributed to this report.