Blog of the Peer Advising Leadership Program, College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

26 February 2008

A few tips in finding that perfect apartment....

Wow! Alex, Wendy, and Stephen have done an awesome job giving great advice when searching for a place to live after freshman year. Since I have been living off-campus for three years now, I wanted to bring up some interesting points that you may want to consider when looking for a place. First, if you want to live with someone, make sure you two can really get along. Maybe have a trial run first to make sure you two are compatible. Don’t let this end a friendship! I’ve been living with my roommate for three years now and it has been great. Keep in mind all the little expenditures you will have to pay for. This includes water, electricity, gas, garbage, building maintenance, food, internet, cable, etc. Most of the time if you live in an apartment, your landlord will pay for some of the services, but make sure to ask! My landlord pays for water, garbage, and maintenance, but others may provide internet, cable, gas… The further you move away from campus, the cheaper the rent, the bigger the apartments, and more space for parking. I’m living in a two room, two FULL bathroom apartment a little further from campus, but there are two bus lines, with stops directly in front of my apartment, that go to campus. We also get a parking space for the car. We looked on Craigslist a few weeks before the semester ended. This let us get the first pick of apartments, plenty of time to decide (no stress during finals week). Like Wendy said, Craiglist is a great place to look for open apartments. They usually provide some pictures and open house times. Finally, the best tip I can provide: Don’t limit yourself to open houses. If possible, make an appointment to see the potential apartment in private. This will give you more time to actually look at the apartment without the pressure of the competition. I’ve gone to open houses, but everyone was walking around, looking at us like we wanted to steal it from them. Everyone was so busy filling out applications and I don’t think they really looked around closely. When we walked around our future apartment during a private viewing, we were able to ask the realtor specific questions, and we had plenty of time to figure out if this place was right for us. Renting yearly is a great financial, emotional commitment, and I’m really happy we took the time to figure out what we wanted. Good luck in finding your new place! If you have any great stories about how you found your apartment, or if you are looking for one and have some questions, feel free to drop by our office hours and let us know!

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Posted by Julie Ching at 1:50 | Permalink

22 February 2008

Housing, housing, housing...

To be really upfront and honest, I've been in university housing for pretty much my entire time at Cal. Which, for me, has not been a bad thing. Of course, I had been doing some housing searches before I settled in university-owned apartments, so here's my lowdown on what's available around campus: A) The dorms: this is often an unappealing option for freshman who've been through a year of loud hall-mates and bad food, but the downsides are balanced by the fact that it's the easiest option to apply for. Since housing's now guaranteed for two years, you can use Cal Housing as a safety cushion in case you can't find off-campus housing. B) University-owned apartments: they're a great option in my book, because the application process is simple, there are no landlords to deal with, there's a weekly cleaning service, they are close to campus, and all the apartments are really new. Moreover, meal plans are not required, making them much cheaper than dorm rooms. The main downside is that they are more expensive than some of the off campus options and do not offer parking. Wada apartments also close during the summer, while Channing Bowditch Apartments offer year-round contracts. C) Off-campus apartments: the benefits of your own apartment come in the form of freedom. You can finally get your own room, seek lower rent and find, and get that house pet you've always wanted. But you also have to deal with utility bills, old facilities, landlords, and the fact that you'll have to actually take care of your own apartment. Looking for an apartment can become a huge hassle, especially if you're seeking one that will please both you and your prospective apartment-mates. D) Greek system: frat and sorority houses are relatively self-explanatory. Keep in mind that during the summer (and also during the school year), they often have rooms for rent at really low rates. E) Co-ops: it's the quintessential Berkeley residence: cooperative living where everyone performs chores to lower the cost of living. Different co-ops carry different lifestyless, from extremely wild to calm and quiet. As mentioned before, they are often the most affordable option. Happy hunting! Be sure to drop by our office hours with any questions.

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Posted by Alex Lau at 3:20 | Permalink

21 February 2008

Time to find a new pad...

For those of you who are sick of dorm food and communal bathrooms, having your own apartment seems like heaven. But it definitely takes a bit of time and effort to find the place of your dreams. I recommend starting your search early. It can get really stressful looking for housing when you’re in the midst of preparing for finals. So start poking around in late March, definitely start looking around in April. Craigslist is a great go-to. You’ll basically find anything and everything there. (It’s also great for getting furniture later on to decorate your new place.) Be observant as you walk around Berkeley as well. Sometimes it pays off to jot down the phone numbers posted on the “For Rent” signs on an apartment building’s window. And ask around. Sometimes your friend’s friends are moving our of their old places, or they’ll know that their own building is renting. If you’re planning to live with others, ask your future roomies to share the work with you so you’re not the only one looking. Of course set down standards so you’re all clear about what kind of apartment you’re looking for. Have your parents’ or cosigner’s credit report quickly. This comes in handy when you’re competing with others for a place and you can get in all your financial info in the quickest. And finally, don’t stress too much! You’ll eventually find something you like, even if it seems like it comes at the absolutely last possible moment. I remember finding my apartment pretty late, after most of my friends had already found a place. So don’t worry, the chances are slim that you’ll end up homeless :)

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Posted by Wendy Chen at 6:21 | Permalink

21 February 2008

Housing Options

It's spring semester and it might be time to think about your housing options for next year. Many students choose to find an apartment with their friends or dorm mates, and while living in an apartment can be a new and fun experience, some people might find a hard time adjusting. here are a few tips in helping you decide what to look for. Location: Unless you have a car, you don't really want to be walking/biking several miles jsut to get to class everyday. What if you have gaps? You'd be stuck on campus all day and no one likes that. The distance from campus is perhaps the number one priority when choosing an apartment according to my experience and many others. Cost: Cost is perhaps the second most important thing to consider. If you don't mind having a roomate than that would definitely cut the rent down. There are plenty of apartment complexes with affordable rates, be sure to look around before settling in any one place. Cleanliness: This might not be a factor for many people, but you have to realize that you are no longer living in the dorms. There will be no janitors to clean up your bathroom mess, and if your apartment is realtively clean to begin with then it would jsut make your job that much easier. Other: There are many other factors to consider, but the important thing is to sort out on your own what is more important to you. If you spend all your time in the library than perhaps you don't need such a nice and spacious apartment, however if you're living with 5 other students than it might be wise to get a larger apartment. Of course, there are other options besides apartments such as the dorms again. There are also campus apartments such as the channing bowditch apartments, or the Wada apartments in Unit 2. Also, the international house is not just for international students, so that might also be an alternative. Co-ops are also an option, and there are plenty of those around that are close to campus and are affordable. Besure to check them out!

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Posted by Stephen Kwan at 1:51 | Permalink

19 February 2008

Dealing with Challenging Classes

There are many difficult classes at Berkeley that we all have to struggle through. It is almost a right of passage for the science majors to take Organic Chemistry and Bio 1A, but it wasn't until I took my Environmental Modeling requirement, Energy and Resources 102, that I really met a challenge. Some people went through this class very easily, but I had never taken a subject where I had to draw on all of my knowledge gained from the big Chemistry and Calculus classes. I had to answer questions such as: “What would the pH of rain be in the absence of anthropogenic sources of sulfuric and nitric acids?” and “If the burning of fossil fuels were to cause the CO2 concentration in Earth’s atmosphere to become twice what it was at the beginning of the industrial revolution, how would Earth’s surface temperature be affected?” The problem sets became my third job as I began to spend and average of ten or more hours a week on them. So how did I deal with this difficult material? Here are some tips!

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Posted by Liz Dow at 1:21 | Permalink

12 February 2008

Tough Times

One of my more difficult times here at Berkeley is dealing with ….graduation. I’m a senior finishing up my last semester. The count down is fast, 3.5 more months till I can call myself a Berkeley Alumni. Exciting, yet still uncertain, I’m faced with new challenges that cannot be solved by hours of studying or attending office hours with my professors. Should I get a full time job, apply for grad school, or take a break and travel? If I had unlimited funds I’d do the latter, but my practical side pushed me to apply for grad schools. As I am still eagerly awaiting for responses, my best advice to myself and to future ‘08 graduates is to breathe and take a break! Sometimes I feel like my GPA doesn’t matter that much, but to say that your classes aren’t important would get me in trouble. Enjoy the free time, don’t fight senioritis so much, and worry about your choice of school when the acceptance letters come. But for now, spend those precious months with your friends and make some memorable Berkeley moments exploring the area. I have my checklist of things to do before I graduate, so enjoy your last few undergrad months while it lasts!

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Posted by Crystal Kwan at 4:54 | Permalink

12 February 2008

Difficult but worthwhile

One of the more difficult classes I've taken was Bio 1A and 1A/L. Most of you have probably already heard the horrors of the lab practical exam and the endless hours of memorizing and studying put into that class. It was a challenging class, and it did require a tremendous amount of time. However, I learned a lot, and I found myself enjoying most of the material we covered. I found it to be very relevant and even practical. The time that I put into studying paid off in the sense that I was able to absorb and learn more information that I wouldn't have otherwise. And in the end, even though I didn't get an A in the class, I was satisfied with the grade I received because I had made my best effort. So don't feel discouraged if you come across impossibly difficult classes. Hard work eventually pays off. There are also tons of resources on campus to help you reach your goals if you're feeling overwhelmed or discouraged. You can always stop by during PAL office hours if you need advising of if you just want to vent!

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Posted by Wendy Chen at 1:25 | Permalink

12 February 2008

Hard times

We're at Berkeley and it's inevitable that we will encounter tough times from time to time. One particular hard time I had was second semester if my freshmen. Being an ignorant freshmen, I decided that I was going to do 16 units of technical classes. I had lots and lots of trouble with these classes since I was still getting adjusted to the Berkeley life, and basically for that semester I barely had any extracurricular activities besides going to the gym once in awhile. It wasn't so much that I took a lot of science classes at one time, but it was more of the difficulty of each class. However for that semester I really buckled down and really studied hard. I went to office hours, and I participated in the student learning center study groups (at the Caesar Chavez Center @ Lower Sproul) and it turns out that although this may be the toughest semester for me, I actually did the best in in my whole 4 years as a Berkeley student. My advice from this experience would be to carefully plan out your 4 years as a college student, even though it is quite likely that you will change it every semester (I sure did). By doing that, you can plan ahead and knopw what classes you should take now, and classes you should take later. Most major requirements have it so you don't have to take more than 3 major requirement courses per semester, so by carefully planning out your 8 semesters you can be avoid unneccessary stress! Be sure to come to PAL office hours if you need help planning your courses!

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Posted by Stephen Kwan at 1:07 | Permalink

07 February 2008

Pulling Through

The most difficult class for me at CAL was MCB 102. I took that course my first semester and it really hit me. Personally, I didn't know what to expect when I transferred here. Although it might have been wiser to take a lighter/"easier" course load that semester, taking MCB 102 was a great learning experience. The class was fast paced with the amount of material I had to learn and to what level the professors wanted me to understand the material via exams. I initially didn't worry much until I took the first midterm. I was so devastated when I saw the grade. It was even more depressing when I saw the class distribution and noticed that my score was near the end of the scale. To make it worse, my second midterm score wasn't any better. I begin to question my intelligence and whether I was worthy of coming to Berkeley.

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Posted by Rebekah Kim at 2:48 | Permalink

06 February 2008

Tips for Success in Classes

To all of those celebrating new years, Happy New Year! So classes officially began two weeks ago, and it has been busy since. Here’s a few tips to keep up in those general chemistry, biology, and physics classes, all of which were difficult to conquer, but I did survive my first two years of college. 1. Attend lectures, whether in person or via webcast. Webcast is such a great tool (except it’s on Real Player, but the EST people are working on it), but you have to have enough discipline to watch them. Watch it with a friend or try setting a specific time in the day to watch them. Just try not to cram it into the final hours before an exam, but if that works for you, go for it.

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Posted by Irene Liao at 3:58 | Permalink

05 February 2008

Welcome back!!!

Welcome back CNR students and a special welcome to the new freshman and transfer students to a new Spring semester! We hope that you all had a nice winter break and are well-refreshed and energized to work hard and have fun this semester! CNR will be having new and exciting events! So check back with us on our web page http://nature.berkeley.edu/site/pal.php, come visit us at our office hours, or check out the Student Resource Center in 260 Mulford for more information on the college and the CNR community. You can email us at pal@berkeley.edu and if you're really daring, you can find us on Facebook or Myspace. =) The PALs (Peer Advising Leaders) are here to help. Good luck this semester! "There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature -- the assurance that dawn comes after the night and spring after the winter." - Rachel Carson

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Posted by Dale Dualan at 3:40 | Permalink

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