Follow a freshman: Housing at UC Berkeley

Rebecca Lee/Staff
Jessica Mendoza, left, and Gianina Wicaksono are two freshman roommates who live in Unit 1's Freeborn building. Their room was converted from a laundry room into a triple. On occasion, people mistake their room for a bathroom because their room also has a blue door. Sometimes other residents in their building accidentally walk into their room late at night!

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Editor’s note: Each year, freshman find it a daunting task to search for more housing — given that a majority of them have never had to do it before. As part of a new project, The Daily Californian went out to find a few of these freshmen and plans to follow them and their housing journey for the next few years. Follow up in next year’s Housing Issue to see where they end up.

Jessica Mendoza and Gianina Wicaksono: Unit 1

The Daily Californian: Why did you decide to live in Unit 1?

Jessica Mendoza: We prioritized Unit 1 during the housing options — they just put us in Freeborn.

Gianina Wicaksono: I guess we knew we wanted to live close to the campus, and we didn’t really care if it was Unit 1, Unit 2, Unit 3, but based on the website, it seemed like Unit 1 was closer, so we chose that.

DC: You mentioned that your room used to be a laundry room. Is it different from living in another room?

GW: Actually, on my first day, I came in and realized I had the blue door. … I looked at the other rooms, and the differences I noticed were that we have overhead lights. … (Other rooms) have extended ceilings … (and) closets from the edge of that door all the way to one side. … We don’t have that.

JM: I just hang up my clothes on my bed, and that’s what functions as my closet.

freshman_rebecca_lee4DC: What’s so different about having the blue door?

JM: We have the only blue door, and the bathroom is another blue door, so (people) just storm in here and are like, ‘Oh, sorry!’

GW: Yeah. Our door is not locked — I think our door is the only door we can control whether we lock it or not. At night, sometimes we don’t lock our door, so in the middle of the night, we sometimes have someone just opening our door and say, ‘Oh, this is not the bathroom.’

JM: We put a sign out for a while, and we figured by this point, people have figured it out. But the day after we took the sign down, someone walked into our room again!


Shannon Hong: Unit 2

DC: What’s your living situation right now?

Shannon Hong: I didn’t request to be on an all-female floor, but I am on one. … I think it’s because I ended up putting in my housing application pretty late. It was, like, November of the fall semester, and then the person who was living here, she moved into a sorority house, but she also put that (request) in pretty late. This was probably the only place available.

DC: We’re at the end of February, going into March. What’s housing look like for you? What are your plans?

SH: It’s quite deathly. My best friend and I applied to housing from UC Berkeley, but we might not get that or any of the ones we’re interested in, (which are) Wada in Unit 2, Martinez Commons and then Channing-Bowditch. … But if we don’t get any of those, right now, we’re looking for apartments in the area, and it’s quite deathly — it’s awful. It’s such a time-consuming experience. Most of the places around campus have already been taken, and they have sub-optimal prices or sub-optimal accommodations. … I think our best bet is to find a senior, one of our friends, who’s moving out, and then we’ll replace them.

DC: How much are you aware of the housing crisis? Is the housing process tough for you because it’s time-consuming as a student or because there are not enough houses available?

SH: Perhaps I will come to realize there are not enough houses available, but for right now, it’s mostly, “Oh my God, why is this taking me so long?” I think that’s also a function of not having enough housing right now.

Diego Orellana: Stebbins Hall

DC: Why are you living at the co-ops as a freshman?

Diego Orellana: I’m from Los Angeles and my parents have done a lot for me, and I try my best to help them save as much money as possible. That’s kind of why I chose Berkeley as this really amazing but public and cheap university. I actually have a lot of old friends from high school who end up here … and a lot of them live in the co-ops, so my friend (a junior), he told me about the co-ops and told me, “Hey, as soon as you get your application just sign up for the co-ops and make sure you sign up to be certified (Educational Opportunity Program) so that you can get up there on the waitlist,” and I did and I got offered a spot in Stebbins Hall. He was actually also living there that semester, and so I joined. It was a really amazing experience — I get to save a lot of money. As the only freshman (at Stebbins) in a community of much older, more mature, more knowledgeable, just wiser people who really know how to navigate Berkeley and the things that go on, it felt like a really welcoming, really amazing space to just grow and learn as a person.

DC: Do you feel like you’re missing out on an experience because you’re the only freshman there and you aren’t living in a residence hall?

DO: I’ve actually made quite a few freshmen friends just from clubs and classes and other things like that, so I don’t really miss out on the whole “having friends my age” aspect, which is really not an important thing. I definitely don’t regret joining the co-ops at all. I think the vibe is a lot better than what I’ve seen at the dorms. It seems much more crammed, much less friendly and much more separated to be in the dorms, and obviously I can’t speak from experience, but I really do enjoy my time in the co-ops.

Inaara Charolia: Clark Kerr Campus

DC: How do you like living at Clark Kerr? What’s your housing experience like right now?

Inaara Charolia: I honestly love it. I think it’s perfect, and I’m really, really happy with both of my roommates. I know a lot of people complain that it’s really far, but I don’t think it’s really a problem with the walk — it’s not that long. Honestly, I just really like it, and I feel like the fact that there’s more space in Clark Kerr rooms than there are in the units definitely makes the whole living situation a lot easier and a lot less stressful. I’ve talked to people who live in the units, and they find it really stressful.  

DC: Housing searches are underway. What’s your housing plan looking like for next year?

IC: We currently have me and one of my roommates and some floormates — four of us — and honestly, we’re still searching and still trying to find a place, because it is pretty hard to get something this early. But we’re trying.

DC: Do you have any advice or do you have any questions about the housing situation (in Berkeley) as it stands?

IC: It’d be nice to get to know more reliable resources online to look for apartments or if there was more of a list or resource to use from campus that I could trust. I know there is one website through campus that does that, but I haven’t taken a look at it. (If there were) a list of all sites the university has confirmed, that’d be interesting and a lot more helpful because I know I’ve talked to people who have gotten scammed off Craigslist. … Make sure you have a good group of people that you know you want to live with toward the end of winter break because as long as you know who you want to live with figured out, I think you can all work together.

Contact Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks and Gibson Chu at [email protected].

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Jessica Mendoza and Gianina Wicaksono live in Unit 2’s Davidson Hall. In fact, they live in Unit 1’s Freeborn Hall.