al-majhul

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I thought I'd start this as a new thread rather than adding to the UCBSO '05 interview thread -- since it really doesn't have much to do with the interview :)

But...so I'd like to know, what's the low-down on the living?

If I decide to go there, I want a place that's near to the school; or at least accessible by public transportation -- I may or may not bring my car (btw, is that advisable? is public trans. really good enough to get you where you need to be? -- as opposed to LA where everything is so spread out that you can't get by without a car) Any idea how much would I be looking at spending per month on living? Any other points or tips to think about?
 

Rosanna

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Oh, I guess I’ll be the first (and perhaps only) to reply =) I have had a few classmates who have told that me they are lurkers so perhaps they’ll come out.

The low-down on living in Berkeley – it sucks. Finding a nice place is a pain and often you have to luck out to find a decent place for good rent that is safe. The best option is to find a place that an opto is giving up or move in with a current opto student. If you want to find a place yourself, it is not impossible but it will take some time (~1 month).

If you absolutely must live in Berkeley, you will soon realize that Berkeley is split up to three areas: south, west, and north.

South Berkeley is where the cheapest rent is but also considered the least safe area. South Berkeley is where Telegraph Avenue is (if you’ve been here, you know what goes down there) and where People’s Park is. I’m not saying that it is totally unsafe, but you may have to be careful after dark. I have several classmates that live in South Berkeley and they pay around $500-$600/month for their own bedroom but sharing an apartment. Most of them do not have a parking spot. Apartment managers usually charge an extra $50-$60/month for parking and there is sometimes a waiting list to get a spot.

If you don’t mind living dormitory style (you get your own room and must share a bathroom and a kitchen area), then the International House (http://ihouse.berkeley.edu/) may be a good choice. I have one classmate that lives there and there are two first years there also. It is a part of the University and it located right on Gayley Rd. so it will take you around ~10 minutes to walk to Minor Hall. The rent is about $9,000 for the academic year. That does not account for a meal plan. There is no parking available.

On West Berkeley, the rent is a bit more. Most of Berkeley’s apartments are privately owned, but in the West is where you find apartments owned by management companies (example: http://www.panoramicmanagement.com/). The rent for these places starts at around $1300/month for a one bedroom. My two classmates who live in one of these apartments actually pay $1000/month each (they got a two bedroom). They, in particular, pay that much because the apartment is about one block away from the west entrance of campus and they have garage parking.

If you live a bit further away (perhaps going towards MLK, and the freeway), then the rent goes down a bit to around $500-$600/month (own bedroom, shared apartment). Parking offered by apartment managers in the West is a bit easier to find. Plus, street parking is more of a viable option.

North Berkeley is probably where the nicer privately owned apartments are located. North Berkeley is also more of a residential area where a lot of graduate and professional students live. It is also in North Berkeley where you can find a house to rent (if you find enough roommates). So, rent is generally the most expensive around $600-$700/month (own bedroom, shared apartment). Parking is more available and street parking is ok.

So what you should consider is how much you really need your car. Being from So. Cal, I know that I needed my car no matter what. Public transportation is fairly good here. Being a Cal student, your student fees actually pay for a free AC transit bus pass. So many optos actually live a bit further away from campus (even up to Oakland) and just commute to school by bus. You have to consider if you can wake up early enough to make the bus, and any hassles that may cause. During first year optics, my friend was 30 minutes late for a midterm because the two buses had passed his stop because they were too full with students to pick up anyone else. He didn’t have a car or anyone else to drive him to school. He was waiting at the bus stop for almost 45 minutes until an empty bus picked him up. Also, when you start bringing equipment to school, you have to think about having it on the bus and also if you mind bringing so much stuff with you when it’s raining. Not having a car is ok (I know some who don’t), but they you rely on other people to bring you out to buy groceries, etc. If you want to go into SF, you can take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). But if you are staying late in the city, BART actually closes around 12-1AM.

If you want to drive to school, as I mentioned before, the parking office will only sell you a parking permit if you live 2 miles away from campus. To buy a parking permit, you must present a PG&E bill or a lease for them to check. However, there are ways around this if you must know (myself or anyone else here is willing to tell you if you ask). Parking at school is fairly expensive. I paid close to $800 to park for the entire year (including summer). What I paid for is actually Faculty/Staff parking because I work for the school so student parking may be cheaper (plus you don’t have to pay for the summer if you are not here). The closest student parking lot is Underhill, which takes about a 10-15 minute walk to Minor. However, you get to pass by Café Stratta which is nice to grab some coffee in the morning.

So if you finally decide to come to Berkeley, the best places to be found are through current opto students. Unfortunately, the listserver for the C/O 2009 is probably not going to be ready until mid/late summer. Students going on rotations or are graduating usually e-mail the classes below them to see if anyone wants to take over that lease. Most of the time, entering students won’t get those e-mails. If you know someone at Berkeley, it’s best to be in contact with them so they can forward you any of those e-mails.

If you are going to look for an apartment yourself, the BEST place to start looking is http://craigslist.org. Mainly all my friends who found something in Berkeley found it through craigslist. I would not recommend paying for CalRentals which is operated through the school because landlords usually just post their information for free on craigslist anyway. It is a definite a buyer beware warning on craiglist. You may find the apartment of your dreams, but you’ll find mainly a lot of crap. Most landlords just post when they are having an open tour, and you have to be in the area. When I was trying to find a place in Berkeley and I was still in So.Cal, many of the landlords were not willing to “hold” a place for me to look at (even if I was coming up in one week). The places that were only showed through appointment were usually rented out before I even got the chance to view them. When I called landlords to schedule an appointment, many did not return my call (which I think was because I was calling out of the area code). I just had my sister who lives in the Bay Area schedule appointments for me. If you think that’s going to be a problem, then try finding the e-mail addresses for landlords or even try to get a temporary 800 number.

You may want to come here for a weekend and secure a place early. Many places are rented out during the beginning of the summer. My cousin who was an undergraduate at Cal actually had to move into Oakland one year because she was looking too late in the summer for a place to rent. I did fly up once to find an apartment, and actually could not find something that I liked but you may luck out.

And if you are bringing your car anyway, then I would suggest that you look in a different city than Berkeley. There are great condos and apartments in Emeryville (quite expensive), and nice places in Albany and El Cerrito. It will take you longer to drive to school, but it might be good to get away from Berkeley also. I live in El Cerrito in a very nice 2 bedroom apartment for $1100/month (my dad knows the building owner). I have a carport, ample street parking (don’t need a parking permit like in Berkeley to park on the street), and I live literally 2 minutes from Pacific East Mall (which has a Ranch 99, and a lot of Asian restaurants). It takes me about 20 minutes to drive to school in the morning (city streets, no traffic) and about 30-40 minutes driving home.

Also, I have a few classmates that live in San Francisco. It’s not cheaper but many of them just figure that it’s a great opportunity to live in the city and there is a lot of stuff to do. They take BART to school (wake up usually around 5 – 6 AM), but I have one friend that drives (wouldn’t really recommend since crossing the Bridge is a pain). I have a few other classmates that live in Fremont (mainly to stay at home and save money), but actually two moved into Berkeley because the commute was too much.

Ok, so best of luck to everyone. If I remember something else, I’ll add it again to this thread.

- Rosanna

Oops, forgot to put in this link: http://www.apartmentratings.com/rate/CA-Berkeley.html
 
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al-majhul

UCBSO c/o 2009
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Rosanna said:
Oh, I guess I’ll be the first (and perhaps only) to reply =) I have had a few classmates who have told that me they are lurkers so perhaps they’ll come out.....
- Rosanna
Thanks Rosanna. As always, you are a wealth of knowledge. :)
 

Rosanna

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Hello everyone:

I actually found this e-mail I sent to an entering first year coming from Miami who wanted to know what there was to do around the East Bay. So I thought to share this with you all. Some of the links may not be working (I didn’t check them all).

------------->>

Your registration fees pay for an annual bus pass with the AC transit (http://www.actransit.org/) so it will be free for you to take the bus to school. Driving (especially if you are going to be taking the highway or freeway) and parking is a separate deal which costs a lot more money. =) I drive to school from my apartment at El Cerrito which I don't mind. It takes me about 20 minutes to get into school (probably 5 minutes to get to the University Ave exit and then the other 15 minutes driving to the campus which is pretty far from the exit on the 80). I like living away from campus because it allows me to get away and not always be around that area.

I'm probably not the best person to ask about recommendations for places to visit since I'm pretty much a stranger to the East Bay myself. I was born and raised in San Francisco but I never really came to the East Bay when I was growing up. When you begin school, the student government actually gives out to the freshmen an orientation booklet that lists local restaurant, theaters, attractions, pubs, etc. I still have mine somewhere, but it would take me forever to type out for you. =)

In Oakland, there is Jack London Square which has upscale shopping and restaurants. I do enjoy Yoshi's (http://www.yoshis.com/), which is a Japanese restaurant and Jazz Bar as well. You can buy tickets for the show on their website or just show up at there box office. You don't have to eat dinner there to enjoy the show, but if you do, your waitress will hold a seat for you so you can eat your dinner at leisure (it's open seating).

For good sushi, I would recommend Sushi House (http://www.e-sushihouse.com/) in Alameda which a lot of optos go to.

There is also Lake Merritt in Oakland which is quite beautiful. A walk around the lake takes about 30 minutes, and there is a Rotary Nature Center. If you are interested in rowing, there is a crew club that you can inquire about (http://www.rowlakemerritt.org/).

There is also Chinatown in Oakland which I think is cleaner than the SF Chinatown. =) There is an abundance of cheap eats around that area and a nice culture introduction.

Coming closer to Berkeley, we have Bay Street in Emeryville (http://www.baystreetemeryville.com/). It's basically an outdoor shopping mall with a little bit more high-end stores (Coach, Banana Republic, Pottery Barn, etc.). They also have a nice AMC theater there. The restaurants they have are typical chain places - Pasta Pomodoro, California Pizza Kitchen, Fuddruckers, Zao Noodle Cafe, Askew Grill, Rubio's Baja Grill, and a P.F. Chang's opening up. I probably have been to all of them before. =) I'm not sure if you had Pasta Pomodoro before because it's mainly a West Coast place but I think they serve pretty good pasta for a chain restaurant. CPK is not bad, and the pizzas are really inventive. Zao is overpriced for noodles. =) Askew Grill is good! I usually go there with my sister or with friends and just get a skewer with a side of potatoes and a nice fruit drink (they make their own fruit blends). Rubio's is fine if you never had it before (really good fish tacos), and P.F. Chang is just Asian fusion food which I find is OK.

Near the bay of Emeryville, we have Chevy's. The one thing they have is a gorgeous view of the Bay. They are located at 1890 Powell Street; Emeryville, CA 94608. (510) 653-8210

There is also Hong Kong East Ocean Restaurant at 3199 Powell St.; Emeryville, CA 94608. (510) 655-3388. They serve OK dim sum but the view is worth the cost of going there. You need to get there early for dim sum because there are no reservations for small parties, and all the seats next to the windows are taken up first.

Not too far from Ocean Restaurant, we have Trader Vic's (http://www.tradervics.com/rest-emeryville.html). Their restaurant is like a Tiki hut and has a "Polynesian" feel to it. It’s a pretty high-end place but I had a great time there with a friend (not too pretentious).

All those places in Emeryville are near the shore so you can walk or bike around.

To fully enjoy Berkeley, you need to come and just visit it yourself. There are so many places to see and eat that it's going to be impossible for me to type out for you. There are free campus tours given each day (http://www.berkeley.edu/visitors/free_tours.html). Telegraph Avenue is also a place you need to walk around to appreciate. Don't go walking there when it gets dark though! I do recommend walking around in the mornings or afternoons when there are a lot of students and tourists around. I'm sure you are smart enough to avoid certain people and to avoid People's Park around there. If you are coming to Berkeley, go visit Cafe Stratta which is at the corner of Bancroft and College. It is a wonderful cafe next to the Bancroft Hotel and one of the closest cafes to the optometry building. So you'll become very familiar with it.

North Berkeley is a lot different from South/West Berkeley. Mainly professionals and families live in the area. There is a wonderful grocery store called Andronico's (http://www.andronicos.com/) at Shattuck and Cedar St. Their deli is really good, and they are right across the street from Elephant Pharmacy (http://www.elephantpharmacy.com/) which is cool to visit. Right across the street is Barney's (http://www.barneysrestaurant.com/) which has gourmet burgers. And a few stores away is the EXCELLENT Cheeseboard Pizza (http://cheeseboardcollective.coop/). The pizzas are made fresh each day they are open and usually sell out before they close. Across the street from Cheeseboard is the FAMOUS Chez Panisse (http://www.chezpanisse.com/). Extremely expensive but one of the best meals I've ever had in my life. The cafe (located upstairs) is less expensive and less formal but still serves wonderful food. Cesar (http://www.barcesar.com/) is located next door to Chez Panisse and is a great tapas bar. There is always a lively group of people but no reservations are taken. Getting a table (or even getting a seat at the bar) on a Friday night required myself and a friend to wait almost 1.5 hours. I should also mention that Gregoire (http://www.gregoirerestaurant.com/gregoire/home.html) is right across the street from Elephant Pharmacy. The BEST (and most expensive) take-out food there is.

There is also Fourth Street in Berkeley (http://www.sfgate.com/traveler/guide/eastbay/neighborhoods/fourth.shtml) which is another outdoor "mall." The difference is that they have smaller shops and more unique boutiques. Plenty of restaurants there but I should mention Spenger's (www.spengers.com/). A huge restaurant with a good selection of seafood. My friends and I went to their happy hour (http://www.msmg.com/main.cfm?action=location&element=sample&type=happyhour&locID=49) which is pretty good there also. Don't go there expecting to meet anyone though, most people there are families. The best deal during happy hour is their $1.95 cheeseburger and fries. Very good!

There is also a great breakfast place on 4th Street called Bette’s Diner. The wait can be up to an hour (no reservations), so I would recommend just putting your name on the list, and then go next door to their café which has great sandwiches and pastries and really good hot chocolate.

I'm getting a bit tired so I'm going to try to wrap this up.. hahaha. =)

Okay, in Albany, there is Solano Avenue which has great shops and coffeehouses as well. Rivoli Restaurant (http://www.rivolirestaurant.com/) is located there and is one of my personal favorites. If you can't make reservations, they have a small bar and a few tables in the front that has open seating. Go for the HOT FUDGE SUNDAE .. the BEST! The portabella mushroom fritters are to die for also! There is also Gilman Grill on Gilman and 4th Street (may actually be considered in Berkeley) which is a great breakfast place.

Ok, El Cerrito/Richmond, there is the 99 Ranch Market complex (3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804). Basically an Asian grocery store inside a complex that has a lot of Asian restaurants. Really good Vietnamese, Thai, and shanghaineses restaurants in there.

A few blocks away is the El Cerrito Plaza (http://www.elcerritoplaza.com/) which has Barnes & Noble, Trader Joe's, Macaroni Grill, Pasta Pomodoro, Albertson's, etc. They have a Farmer's Market on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The one on Tuesday is fairly small, so I would recommend coming on a Saturday.

Ok, I know there are a few thousands places I'm missing but I hope I give you some idea of what's around the area.

If you can tell me your favorite cuisine, maybe I can help you out some more with the local restaurants of if you want to travel into San Francisco.

One more thing I can recommend is the 511.org website that has a pretty good taketransit planner (http://transit.511.org/tripplanner/index.asp). You can put in the address from where you are leaving and where you are going and they will calculate how far away it is, the fare you need to take, the route (either BART, BUS, etc.).

------------------------------
 

heretic

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UCB has apartment style suites on the corner of Durant and College Ave, one block from the Optometry school. It's mainly for graduate school students. I lived there my last two years at Cal for undergrad. At the time, rent was $832/mo for a five bedroom apt. That includes all your utilities and T1 internet. 5 brooms seems like a lot, but the apartments are designed long, and all the rooms are about the same size. There's also 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, and dining room.

It used to be called College-Durant Housing, now it's called Jackson House. Contact the UCB Housing Dept. if you are interested. Pamela Booth was the person in charge of that building.

If you need to just get around town, UCB has a class pass system that allows you to ride AC Transit buses (Alameda Cty.) an unlimited amount of times for a nominal semester fee. Combine that with BART, and you've got pretty good range around the Bay Area. It's still nice to have a car though for things like groceries, or excursions. Rosanna brings up a good point about equipment too. You don't really want to be lugging around your trial lens case, BIO bag, etc. on a packed AC Transit bus with no place to sit. As for BART, last train leaves at 1230 AM, and the first one in the morning is 5AM, something like that.
 

Ning

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Hey,

For people entering this coming fall, are you guys planning to live in a single or find a room mate? I know other optometry schools have a list of students and their emails or something so they can at least find someone. I was looking at some apts. with two bedrooms and the cheapest I could find was at least $800! Eeks, that's so high. I would definitely prefer to live with a room mate since it's so expesive.
Rosanna, do you know what people did in the past years? Thanks!

Ning-Ju
 

Rosanna

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Two bedrooms for $800?!? That’s a steal in my book! My friends pay close to $2,000 total for their two bedroom apartment.

There will be listserver for C/O 2009 that will be formed. The SAO will be sending out that information sometime in the summer. If the e-mail address that you used on the application is wrong, you should definitely call and have them change it now because you’ll miss all the e-mails (which happened to my lil sib). People start posting on the listserver early summer looking for roommates.

Most people do have roommates since it cut down on the costs. In the past, the SAO will send out a list of all the students accepted, which city and state they are from, and their e-mail address if you choose to contact them personally.

What I have seen residents do in the past is write e-mails to all the classes (C/O 2005-C/O 2007) about them looking for a place to rent and to see if anyone has any leads. If you need the e-mail for the classes, PM me.

Also, for anyone that is interested, sometimes vision science graduate students send my class e-mails about looking for roommates. If you want me to forward you any of these e-mails, just PM me with your e-mail and I’ll make sure you get this information since they do not often send it to entering students.

Also, I still have my one friend/coworker that is looking for a roommate, is anyone at all interested?

Good luck,

Rosanna
 

Rosanna

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To c/o 2009:

The e-mail listserve has been created (you may have received an e-mail already stating what it is). If you need the e-mail address (to find roommates, to introduce yourself to classmates, etc.), just PM me (I don't want to post it and then have it get spammed).

- Rosanna
 

Ning

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Rosanna,

I was wondering whether Berkeley had an online system whereby only Berkeley students could post information, such as summer sublets?? At my school, people sold books, cars, and searched for off-campus housing and concert tickets through a particular online system.

That would be helpful so I wouldn't have to use calnet or the craiglist. Plus, they don't have sublets on there, right?

To all those the students that got accepted this year, remember to turn in your housing information sheets! I think they're still missing 1/3 of the class...


Ning-Ju
 

Rosanna

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Optometrist
Hi Ning:

I’m not aware of an online system for only Berkeley students. If you are concerned about optometry books, usually the upperclassmen e-mail everyone when they are selling books or post signs near the mailboxes in the student lounge. There are always several students selling books at the beginning of each semester.

There are certain book buyback stores located around campus, but most of the time the best deal you get for optometry books is online or through a classmate (or even borrow from your big sib).

You’ll find a lot of stuff on craigslist.com, including sublets:

http://www.craigslist.org/eby/sub/

Best wishes,

Rosanna