6 Berkeley-specific things to explain to visiting family members

Grace Beaudoin/Courtesy

Related Posts

UC Berkeley has plenty of quirks that make it the unique entity it is today. Over the course of 150 years, some of the things that once defined UC Berkeley have faded into the past, only to be replaced by new traditions and icons that resonate with the current student body. Older people, such as your parents, who may or may not have gone to Cal, probably won’t understand. That’s where you come in!

Squirrel antics

Squirrels are crazy on most college campuses. But your parents aren’t going to another college campus — they’re coming to UC Berkeley! To explain the nature of the squirrels to your parents in the most effective way, have them participate in a hands-on activity. Place an open Nature Valley bar in each of their hands and have them stand outside of Dwinelle Hall. You won’t need to say or do anything else but run.

Electric skateboards, scooters and unicycles everywhere

What can we say? Students are edgy and efficient here. Electric skateboarders use their nifty tools to avoid showing up to class sweaty when they can effortlessly motor up a hill, leaving behind basic Bears who walk in their dust. Electric scooter users are simply channeling their inner child. Understandable. As for the electric unicycle users, at least they’re fun to watch.

Boba shops popping up mysteriously

Were any of you actually aware that YiFang Taiwan Fruit Tea was there until you saw the super long line out the door during its grand opening? Neither were a lot of us. With so many shops around Berkeley, it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on and where. It’s most likely a marketing ploy seeking to forever keep the residents of Berkeley under the influence of yummy, sweet balls of tapioca. Like a moth to a flame, fiat boba!


Good luck explaining this one to your parents, because a good number of students and alumni are confused as well. Why exactly is a creepy-looking bear named “Oski” our mascot? Just spew some nonsense about how he was disfigured in a horrible accident a few decades ago and UC Berkeley doesn’t have it in the budget to fix him, or say that his creepiness is intended to scare away rival schools on game days and prospective students so that only the fearless apply here.

Stepping on the seals

Just tell your parents the seals are cursed. Parents tend to stay away from cursed objects. If you tell them stepping on the seals is bad for your GPA, they may just laugh and tell you to work harder while simultaneously pushing you onto the seal, which, in turn, will cause you to sprint for your life toward the 4.0 ball. Let’s be real — nobody likes to sprint.

Crying in Main Stacks

It’s like a rite of passage into truly being a UC Berkeley student. It signifies you’re working hard and are overly stressed because you piled on too many things because you thought you could handle it. Or it means that you’ve put off the work until now and are sobbing into a book you have to read 400 pages of in one night for one of your three midterms the next day.

Things such as why Berkeley’s vivid and unbridled protest culture remains as powerful as it was more than 50 years ago, why there’s a T. rex skeleton named “Terry,” and why there’s an ever-increasing number of people dotting Sproul Plaza and Telegraph Avenue claiming you’re on a bullet train to hell or calling for the death of capitalism are best left unexplained. Hopefully you can successfully shed some light on your parents’ experience during homecoming week!

Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected].