University of California, Berkeley Student Review

Summer Session 2014

After four very great months in California to study and travel, I sadly arrived back in Germany. So if you are still undecided whether the UC Berkeley Summer Sessions are worth visiting , you will hopefully be completely convinced after my experience report .


The Cal Campus is the heart of the student city of Berkeley and with its eucalyptus groves, creeks, green spaces and old redwoods is more like a large park. The university buildings, some of which are architecturally interesting, are distributed in between. All buildings on campus are within easy walking distance. The main library (“The University Library / Doe Library”) is particularly beautiful, with the North Reading Room, a really nice study room on campus. Right in front of the Doe Library is the Memorial Glade – a large green space – used by students to study, exercise, and relax. If the view is clear, it is worth going up to the Campanile / Sather Tower(free for cal students), because from there you can not only overlook the campus, but also see San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge. The well-known Free Speech Movement Café is located in the Moffitt Undergraduate Library, and its terrace invites you to study.


I have taken a total of four courses in sessions A (27.05 – 03.07) and D (07.07 – 15.08). All courses were at undergraduate level ( bachelor level ) and therefore absolutely feasible, even if in some cases very labor-intensive (many readings, regular writing assignments, study questions). It is important to always follow the course content continuously. Basically, it should be said that a reader / textbook is required for almost every course, which is available in the Cal-Store (Bancroft Ave). However, some instructors also put the pdf’s online so that it is not absolutely necessary to get the expensive course materials (sometimes $ 90!). That’s why it’s better to wait for the first day of the course and hear what the instructors have to say about it. The Course size ranged from 25 to 45 students . In general, all instructors tried very hard and responded individually to the students’ questions and concerns. In addition, discussions were a very important part of all courses.

I have read in many field reports that you should never take more than two classes per session: yes / no. Depending on the number of units in a class, I agree, as otherwise any leisure activities are only possible to a limited extent. I had 7 or 6 units per session and was very busy with them, but still had enough free time. Anyone who can read and work efficiently should be able to cope with this number of units.

1. Food / Agriculture and the Environment (GEOG 130; 4 units; Adam Romero)

This course has the interaction between food production / agriculture and various environmental factors. Each week a different topic was the focus: From the origin and development of American / Californian agriculture, to food scandals (BSE, E. coli), Green Revolution, use of pesticides / antibiotics / hormones, Genetic Modified Organisms, effects of neurotoxins human health, organic farming, agribusiness, pollution to the popular topic of obesity in the US. In addition to weekly writing assignments (short essays), discussions in the course and a lot of readings (the reader consisted of 4000 pages!), There was a final exam at the end of the session. This consisted of writing several short essays on questions relevant to the course. Regarding the readings, it should be said that there are always certain readings to be read each week (sometimes 400 pages). It is best to form a “reading group” with classmates and to divide the readings accordingly and to make short summaries. So the high reading workload is also feasible.

2. Field Studies of Buildings and Cities (GEOG 182; 3 units; Paul Groth)

This course consisted of a total of six excursions(Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco), all of which addressed current and historical urban, social and geographic issues. The course took place once a week from 9am – 5pm with generous lunch and coffee breaks in between. In Berkeley, the comparison of the hills with the flatlands was on the program (architecture, streetcar urbanism, central business district). In Oakland, gentrification, the economic importance of the container port and working class neighborhoods were the main themes. There were three excursions to San Francisco: Financial District, Chinatown / North Beach / Union Square and Mission District. In preparation for the excursions, there were short readings (textbook & reader). The professor named and explained the relevant topics on site. In addition to the readings,

3. Global Environmental Politics (GEOG 138; 4 units; Jennifer Baca)

The main focus of this course was on the interaction of environmental and social processes. The theory of political ecology was the framework for the course. At the beginning, the course was divided into study groups of five students each, who were supposed to not only share readings during the course, but also hold discussions and work on a group project. The readings were very time-consuming and theory-heavy (Marx, Polanyi). During the course, which was designed to be very interactive, there were many lively group discussions. The group project consisted of collecting information about a local environmental project and writing it down in the form of an essay and presenting it to the course in the form of a presentation. My study group presented the “Gill Tract Community Farm” in Albany. We were also on site to obtain information and conducted interviews with those involved.

4. Case Studies in Clinical Psychology (PSYCH 139; 2 units; Lewis Lewin)

On the basis of first person accounts and case studies, common mental health problems such as major depressive / bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, alcohol dependence, eating disorder, schizophrenia were dealt with in this course . Performance requirements were readings, weekly exams, discussions and a final exam.


If you decide to live off-campus , I recommend arriving a week before the start of the courses in order to have enough time for on-site visits. I found a lovely room in the Berkeley Hills with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge & San Francisco via the craigslist platform. It is best to call the people who offer a room directly on site instead of writing an email. During the summer sessions it is easy to get a room , as most of the cal students are not there and are looking for sub-tenants (sublet / sublease). In addition, the rooms are rented out at very short notice, so that you can usually move in a few days later. The rental prices are salty and range between $ 500-1000 per month.


With just over 100,000 inhabitants, Berkeley is a small, cozy, yet international student city . Despite the small number of inhabitants, the city is very extensive, so it is practical to use the bus system (AC Transit) free of charge with the Cal1 card, which every Summer Session student receives. Every bus also has the option of taking bicycles with you on the bike racks. I bought a used bike at LuLu’s Cyclery (Telegraph Ave) that after three months I was able to sell it back for half the price I paid initially. I recommend getting a bike for anyone who wants to move over “longer” distances (San Francisco is very bike-friendly) or at night (hardly any public transportation), independent of AC Transit.


Despite the work-intensive courses, I still found enough time for leisure activities . For only $ 10 you can use all the facilities of the RSF (Recreational Sports Facility; Bancroft Ave). The Hearst Gym is especially great, as the pool is outside you have a view of the Sather Tower while swimming.

The most of my free time I spent at the marina in Berkeley Cal Sailing Club (CSC). Membership costs $ 89 for three months for students and you can go windsurfing and sailing (dinghies / keelboats) as often as you like. There are also courses for beginners / advanced learners led by volunteers. There is a club-internal “rating” (Novice / Junior (+) / Senior) that determines which boards / sails you can use and how big the sailing area is. Since everything at the CSC is based on volunteer work, you have to work a few hours within three months (cooking, repairing boats / boards / sails, holding courses). In addition to water sports, there is almost always delicious food cooked together in the backyard, game evenings or jam sessions. If you are enthusiastic or interested in water sports, I can only recommend the CSC – I felt at home here,

Eating / going shopping

Since I lived off-campus (without meal points!), I have various options for grocery shopping. Well acquainted: The best, albeit not cheapest, shopping option is Berkeley Bowl (Shattuck Ave @ Oregon St) with a huge selection of (sometimes exotic) fruits and vegetables (banana blossoms, cactus, purple yams, okra pods, pak choi, bitter melon, loquat, Rambutan), a large bulk food department (nuts, dried fruits, muesli, spices in open containers) and the cheese and fish counter invite you to try things that are still unknown. The Monterey Market (Hopkins St) has a similar structure, only a little smaller. Trader Joes (MLK ​​@ University Ave) sells the basics at reasonable prices. Safeway (Shattuck Plaza) as a large supermarket chain has a large 0815 range. The Grocery Outlet (University Ave @ 5th St) has a changing selection of discounted branded products. Who cheap fruit & If you want to buy vegetables, you can do so in Chinatown in San Francisco. Basically, all food in California is more expensive than in Germany. However, the selection is much larger and more diverse. What is absolutely not available is good bread. That’s why I started to bake my own bread.

If you prefer to be cooked instead of cooking yourself, the kitchens of almost all nations are available : Nepalese (Cafè Tibet), El Salvadorian (Platano), Thai (Thai Noodle II), Korean (Be Bop), Indian / Pakistani (House of Curries, Vik’s Chaat), American (Eureka !, Triple Rock), Brazilian (Brazil Cafè), “Italian” (Cheeseboard Pizzeria), Mexican (La Burrita) and Turkish (Dyar). In addition to the well-known “Gourmet Ghetto” (northern Shattuck Ave) with Chez Panisse (founded by Alice Waters), there are many restaurants on Euclid Ave, Telegraph Ave and University Ave.

San Francisco

San Francisco is west of Berkeley and can be reached by either the AC Transit (approx. 45 minutes; free) or the BART (approx. 20 minutes; $ 3.80). It therefore simply worth an afternoon / evening to spend there. In addition to the all too well-known (and sometimes uninteresting) tourist attractions (Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, Pier 39 / Fisherman’s Wharf, Cable Car), the city has a lot more to offer: Starting in the Mission District (Mexican-style, many political murals, good burritos , Mission Dolores Park), via Chinatown (Portsmouth Square as a Chinese living room, Fortune Cookie Factory, Stockton St, Ma-Tsu Temple, Dim Sum / Dumplings), North Beach (“Little Italy”, Beatniks, Cafè Vesuvio, Coit Tower with murals ), Haight-Ashbury (ex-hippie district, Victorian Style Houses, Smoke Shops), Castro District (Castro Theater, Harvey Milk Plaza), Japantown (Sushi, Origami, Temple), Fillmore (Jazz District!) To the spacious Golden Gate Park, which ends with Ocean Beach on the Pacific.Every single neighborhood has its own character with different population groups . If you want to find out more about the individual neighbors, you should take part in the free (but: donations welcome) walking tours of the San Francisco City Guides.

Many events and festivals take place in San Francisco, especially in summer . The annual Pride Parade, which takes place along Market St. for several hours at the end of June, is particularly large and impressive.


Located south of Berkeley (BART / AC Transit / Ferry from SF). The so-called “First Fridays” are especially great, as bands play there for free , food trucks are set up, local artists sell their works and it is generally a big, colorful outdoor street festival. Public transportation (

For those who often use the BART or Muni (type of tram in San Francisco) in addition to the AC Transit, I recommend buying a Clipper Card (one-time $ 3). You can add any amount of money to this card. This saves you having to buy a new ticket again and again before you start your journey and also saves money if, for example, you have an “onward ride” (first BART, then Muni), as you get a discount for it. You can also use the Clipper Card in Marin County (Marin Transit towards Point Reyes National Seashore).

Further surroundings

Either before the start of the classes, on the weekends or after the end of the class, you should take enough time to explore the area. In just under three hours you are in Yosemite National Park (easy – demanding hikes, e.g. Half Dome). It is just under 1.5 hours to Point Reyes National Seashore. There are many easy hikes, hike-in campgrounds in the dunes, steep cliffs, Pacific breezes and lots of nature. One hour south of San Francisco is Pacifica, where you can go wave surfing safely (no rip currents) (surfboards can be rented on site for $ 20). Santa Barbara is a small but classy Mediterranean student town that invites you to stroll. The private Stanford University is also worth a visit.

If you want to go further afield: Sierra Nevada (Inyo National Forest / Kings Canyon National Park) – starting point is Bishop. From here there are both day hikes and backcountry hiking for several days in great landscapes with glacial lakes and pass crossings. Death Valley has impressive sand dunes, heat and starry nights. In Zion National Park you can hike in a ravine in the river. The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is at least as imposing as the South Rim, which is heavily developed for tourism. Las Vegas is “good” for getting married, gambling money and discovering artificial worlds (Venice, Paris, Luxor). The Hawaiian island of Kauai is less discovered than, for example, Big Island & Maui and has good hiking opportunities in the tropical rainforest & on the coast.

Berkeley Law