UC Berkeley: Dorm Life (Post #2)

Choosing between living in a dorm or in a mini-suite (very much like an apartment) was a tough decision for me. I weighed the pros and cons of both and finally decided on living in the dorms.

Berkeley’s living situation is that of an unique one. Because all but one university-operated housing unit is off campus, a great portion of students find and live in an apartment after their first year of college. Therefore, the vast majority of students on my floor and the entire building are freshman (first years). Out of the 34 on our floor, two students are sophomores (second years) and I am the standalone junior (third year). Moreover, I’m one of very few 21+ students in the entire building and Unit. As a result, I feel old at times based on simple face value observations and assumptions.

Having a compatible roommate makes a genuinely positive difference compared with a non compliant one. Sameer is just a year younger than I am, and he and I share many similarities. A couple of our most notable differences are studying and sleeping habits. Our conflicting class schedules means that one of us will always wake up before the other. As I am a sensitive sleeper, Sameer is cautious in his noise level. Luckily for me, he is a heavy sleeper; I often fire shotgun shells at the pigeons gloating outside our window before I leave the room. He remains unconscious throughout each encounter.

My sensitivity, particularly in the ears, also affect our study habits. I’m only able to concentrate under continuous ambient noise (like having cars drive by, hearing the A/C, or being in the cafeteria) or being under absolute silence. That explains why I cannot study in the library or in the lounge with random, prevalent distractions. Respecting my privacy, Sameer often leaves me alone in our room – where I almost exclusively spend my time studying in.

The study station where the white hairs continue to multiply out of my scalp.

As mentioned before, there are a lot of other students on our floor. I’ve established bonds with a large portion of them and – with the exception of a few shy ones – have conversations or hang out on a regular basis. Throughout the day, those who are “home” who aren’t busy have their doors wide open, signifying that anyone shy of a serial killer is welcome inside. To illustrate that point, I am currently “studying” right now and do not wish to be interrupted (writing this blog), so my door is currently closed. My floormmates often eat together in smaller groups. They also interact together through various activities, which include studying in the lounge, working out, playing sports, going into San Francisco, hanging out in a select person’s room, and more.

My floormmates often hang out in our room – because we’re the coolest of course.

My half of the room is better than Sameer’s half.

One aspect of Berkeley that I really appreciate is the diversity amongst students. I feel as though very few people are homogenous; a large portion of the student population differs demographically, ethnically, and economically. The 7th floor of Ehrman Hall, aka the best floor, aka our floor demonstrates this phenomenon quite nicely.

We have:

  • an international student from China who is a genius at math and physics who is very adept at ping pong, yet buzzes off of one alcoholic drink.
  • a student attending Berkeley on a full scholarship – who chose the school over Stanford (wise move) and every Ivy League school (including Harvard and Princeton).
  • one student whose parents both attended Cal themselves and were in the Greek system.
  • a Korean born student who attended high school in both Texas and Boston who lacks any out-of-state/country accent.
  • a student residing from Washington who plays tennis and Starcraft 2.
  • students from all over California, including the [hella] bay area, Central California, and Southern California.
  • and so much more…

The social life in the dorms definitely tops the designated upper-division housing by several notches. The upper-division housing are either suites or apartments; each one has individual bathrooms and/or kitchens. As a result, doors almost never remain open. Not much networking occurs within the buildings. In comparison, I know everyone on Floor 7, as well as a humble portion from the other ones. Having co-ed bathrooms and sharing the laundry rooms and lounges almost forces the students to interact with one another. The only drawback: I occasionally lack privacy – I like to have my alone time.

It’s been exactly a month since I moved in. In contrast with my first week – arguably the hardest week of adjustment – I’m now in a comfortable state of mind. The “friendly” rivalry with the 5th floor brings entertainment amidst chaos studying. Having open doors often invites small talk and provides psychological comfort. We’ve been respecting the rules of living in the hall, and our Resident Assistant (RA) is very kind and friendly. I think things can only get better from now – after my mid-terms, that is.

Though not set in stone yet, the next blog in the series is about campus life!

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