Top study spots for when UC Berkeley returns to normal

Photo of East Asian Library
Sunny Shen/Senior Staff

Picture this: It’s 11 p.m. on the last day of dead week. You’re bundled up in a library cubicle and you’ve got your noise-canceling headphones on, shuffling your favorite “study vibes” playlist. As you shamelessly sip the last drops of your third can of (insert caffeinated drink here), you hastily plug numbers into RogerHub’s Final Grade Calculator.

It’s an all too familiar experience that’s somewhat comforting yet distressingly exhausting — a concoction of conflicting emotions you only get when finals come knocking on your front door. 

Welcome to the quintessential UC Berkeley experience. 

While COVID-19 may or may not have foiled your study plans for this semester’s dead week, you can, at the very least, prepare for the next one — or the one after that. To make your life just a tad bit easier, we at The Daily Californian have got you all covered — underclassmen, upperclassmen and graduate students alike. Here is a way-too-early list of top study spots for when we’re all back on campus. 

C.V. Starr East Asian Library

Lofted beside Memorial Glade near the heart of campus, the East Asian Library is like the spoiled younger sibling of the UC Berkeley libraries. The $46.4 million project from 2008 is spacious, modern and has lots and lots of natural lighting. I mean, what’s not to love?

Each level of the building has a distinctive feel that makes it conducive to studying. On the topmost level, couch chairs face outward toward large, stainless windows. Near the bottom, private cubicles are fitted with wide, multilayered desks, outlets and lights. Just make sure to get there early, because seats tend to fill up fast.    

Brown’s California Cafe

Often overlooked by students because of its location, Brown’s is perhaps the best-kept secret of any Cal Dining facility. Nestled within the Genetics and Plant Biology Building, the walls of the cafe are replaced with stained-glass windows, allowing for plenty of natural sunlight to seep through. You’ve also got your choice of seating: a simple yet elegant wooden chair, a plush, padded bench or an outdoor wooden table under an awning.

As its namesake suggests, the interior is nice and cozy, with plenty of low-pitched background chatter and residual heat from coffee to make the room feel like a proper cafe. While you’re at it, also be sure to pick up a perfectly toasted panini fresh from the grill — a quality use of your remaining Cal Dining flex dollars.

Inlet above the Cesar E. Chavez Student Center

If you want a quaint, relatively empty outdoor spot for studying, then look no further than the inlet above the Cesar E. Chavez Student Center. It’s not nearly as busy as the tables in front of the Golden Bear Cafe and offers equally stunning views of the campus.  

To get there, walk through Sproul Plaza and turn into the path on the south side of Golden Bear Cafe. The area you’re looking for is on the second level, above the BicyCAL shop tunnel. As you continue down the path, you’ll pass by round blue tables with chairs and eventually find a row of big, wooden tables. Plop yourself down and feel free to take in the views right before hitting the books. Down one side you’ll see picturesque Sproul Hall, in front of you is the revamped Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union and below is the bustling Lower Sproul Plaza.  

Main Stacks

Listen, I get it. Main Stacks is an old, run-down bunker that’s by no means a “pretty” architectural space. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s one of the least cheerful libraries out of all 36 on campus. But before you push it aside, consider this: If your primary goal is to be productive, Main Stacks will undoubtedly help you get the job done.  

As soon as you enter the underground archive of books — through the entrance from either Moffitt Library or Doe Library — you’ll instantly notice that it is eerily silent. Everyone, for the most part, is laser-focused on their work. There are also no windows. The resulting atmosphere? One that’s so incredibly gloomy that you’d feel extremely guilty doing anything but studying. 

Need to start a seven-page paper that’s due tomorrow? Go to Stacks. Want to catch up on problem sets and readings that you’ve held off all weekend? Go to Stacks. Looking for a place to camp out for the entirety of dead week? You guessed it: Go to Stacks.

Contact Ryan Chien at [email protected].