The international students’ Berkeley bucket list

Cathrine T. Pettersen/Staff

With great extension programs, UC Berkeley has gotten a hold of a good bunch of international students. We at the Clog have put together a list of a few things we think every international student should do while they are here. Because we’re in America, the list might be characterized by some stars and stripes, but we feel that’s only fair. Let’s bucket-list:

1. Get up at 8 a.m. and attend game day

There’s nothing that screams “American college life” more than a football game and a frat party. At least that’s how it feels for the world outside of the United States — we all saw “American Pie,” “Project X” and “The Program.” Tailgating, frat parties, pregame rallies, BBQs, beer (for those over 21) and football are the ultimate combination for the perfect game day. We bet it’s safe to say that there’s no place other than the United States where American football is as big as it is. So if you don’t know the rules, that’s totally fine. You will definitely enjoy the school spirit and the atmosphere anyway. This is about so much more than football!

2. Participate in American holidays

During the fall semester, there are at least three big holidays you need to celebrate in one way or another — Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Halloween: For Halloween, you should get the craziest costume ever. There are tons of costume shops in the city, or you can be creative and make your own. An alternative to trick-or-treating could be to make goodie bags and give them out to the homeless. Then go and rock your costume at a Halloween party!

Thanksgiving: In advance of Thanksgiving, you should probably go and befriend an American in the hopes that he or she will invite you to his or her home on Thanksgiving. This would definitely be the best way to see how the natives celebrate their favorite holiday. If this doesn’t work out, you should gather other international students and make your own Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe the turkey won’t taste as good, but at least you will be in good company. After all, Thanksgiving is all about being thankful, right?

Christmas: If you’re only staying for one semester, you’ll probably go back home before Christmas. Lucky for you, Christmas here practically begins in September, and it begins at Macy’s. So if you want to soak up some Christmas spirit now, go to the seventh floor of Macy’s in San Francisco and experience a landscape of Christmas trees. When it’s closer to Christmas, take a stroll around local neighborhoods to look at all of the Christmas lights and decorations.

3. Dedicate a day to American food

Dedicate a whole day to American food. Start your day at Bette’s Oceanview Diner on Fourth Street, where you can have a real egg or pancake breakfast. The breakfast is even served all day at this place! For lunch, you should get a bagel at Bagel Street Cafe, and when it’s time for dinner, you should visit Barney’s Gourmet Hamburgers. If these three meals aren’t enough to fill your stomach during your day, you should probably just go to the candy section in one of the grocery stores. They’re huge and very American.

4. Learn the (cultural) language

We’re not talking about regular English. We’re talking about words and terms commonly used in Berkeley that will increase your cultural understanding and ability to participate in conversations with the natives. Terms such as “Berkeley time” and “SoCal” you’ll learn pretty quickly. Others, such as “meal points” and a number of course codes and other terms related to the academic system, might come a little slower. But don’t give up. Eventually you’ll feel like one of them too.

5. Join a club

UC Berkeley has a variety of different clubs to join. Everything from business clubs, publications and dance groups to Rubik’s Cube clubs and service organizations can be found on campus. Joining a club will give you a community, experiences and, last but not least, a really good time. Membership in a lot of the clubs will also look great on your resume.

6. Actually spend a night at the library

During “dead week,” at least some of the university libraries are open around the clock. It might not sound like the most fun thing to do — to study for a whole night — but if you don’t do it for the sake of the studying, do it for the sake of the experience.

7. Buy tons of Cal gear and wear all of it in one outfit

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Cathrine T. Pettersen/Staff

There’s no other place in the world besides American college towns where you can do that and still look cool. And it’s important to show some real school spirit. This is Bear territory, after all.

8. Go to the movies with a supersize popcorn and soda

This is America — go big or go home! You might only be able to eat one-third of the popcorn and drink half the soda, but it will put you in just the right mood for a worthy movie night. And besides, it’s only a few additional cents to supersize it.

9. Invite an American out

If you’re looking for a romantic involvement or just to flirt, you should ask someone out on a date. If you just want a new friend, ask the person you talked to a few times in class out for coffee or to play pool. Maybe they’ve lived in Berkeley for a couple of years already and can show you some cool places you’ve never seen before.

10. Watch a Quidditch game


Cal Qudditch/Courtesy

America is good on sports — even sports that aren’t real sports. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Harry Potter fan or not — watching a Quidditch game will definitely be a good time. The players even claim to have their own special powers. The Quidditch League at Berkeley meets three times per week: Tuesdays from 5-7 p.m., Fridays from 4-6 p.m. and Sundays from 2-4 p.m. Read this Clog article if you want to learn about the basics of Quidditch, and come prepared.

Is there something you think we should add to the list? Comment below with your suggestions!

Image Sources: John Martinez PavligaJulieRay BouknightStéfanDaniel ParksDaniel ParksJen Gallardo via Creative Commons

Contact Cathrine Pettersen at [email protected].