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About UC Berkeley

Also: About UC Berkeley on the UCB site

Living in the Berkeley Area

photo of Berkeley campus Berkeley is located on the East side of the San Francisco Bay, almost directly across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco. The city stretches from the Bay up into the hills which separate the Bay Area from the next inland valley. The UC Berkeley campus is nestled at the foot of these hills and (the astronomy building in particular) commands a breathtaking view of San Francisco, Oakland, the Bay, and its bridges. The climate is very temperate, with easy winters and balmy summers.

Historically, UC Berkeley has served as epicenter for culture and counter-culture in all its forms, and Berkeley retains that aura today in its tremendously vibrant and diverse array of people, shops, and happenings. Stroll up Telegraph Avenue past the colorful street vendors, coffee shops, and clothing stores. Browse through literally the world's greatest music stores and book stores. Spend an hour watching the human menagerie stream through Sproul Plaza. You'll find an urban scene rivaled on this continent only by New York. And nowhere in the world is there a denser collection of amazing restaurants. Craving Indian? Japanese? Mexican? Mediterranean? Thai? Ethiopian? Mongolian? French? Cuban? Vegetarian? Vegan? It's all here, next to campus, cheap, and good .

The Bay Area has an incredibly rich cultural life spanning the entire spectrum of arts and entertainment. Together, Berkeley and San Francisco boast more bars and clubs than you could visit in a lifetime of carousing. Every type of live and electronic music is aggressively represented -- just scan through one of the Bay Area's free weekly papers to see listings for punk, pop, indie rock, folk, jazz, electronica, reggae, blues, country, alt country, swing, and otherwise, all playing in tiny clubs like the world-famous Gilman St. or in grand old rock venues like the Warfield. Prefer high culture? Both San Francisco and Berkeley are home to excellent symphony orchestras and chamber groups, a number of ballet and modern dance companies, and smaller companies which represent ethnic and developmental styles. Crave visual arts? The Bay Area boasts numerous world-class museums, from the avant garde San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to the more classical M. H. de Young Museum. Want sports? Go watch home runs splash into the San Francisco Bay at AT&T Park, or watch the Oakland A's and the Raiders at the Oakland Coliseum. No matter how broad or unusual an entertainment niche you desire, it's here in the Bay Area.

When you want to get out of doors, you need only walk 15 minutes north of campus to the extensive trail system of Tilden Regional Park. Here you'll find Eucalyptus, Redwood, Oak, and Pine forests, grasslands, maintained lawns, lake swimming, Botanical Gardens, and tremendous skyline views of the entire San Francisco Bay. Just over the Golden Gate Bridge is Marin County, home to expansive beaches and regional and national parks. For wind surfing, sailing, and boating, you need only go so far as the Berkeley Marina. And all manner of biking, swimming, running, climbing, and weight training can be found right on campus. The fantastic Sierra Nevada mountains are accessible for weekend getaways.

Unlike other urban areas on the West Coast, the Bay Area boasts superb public transportation. San Francisco is just 15 minutes away by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit -- a commuter train), and both Oakland Airport and San Francisco Airport are connected to Berkeley by a short BART trip (20 minutes and 40 minutes, respectively). Within Berkeley, the buses are convenient, timely, and (most importantly) FREE to registered students, as is the TransBay bus which connects Berkeley to San Francisco via a very short trip over the Bay Bridge. In fact, some students decide that it is unnecessary (or even burdensome) to own a car while living in Berkeley, choosing to commute by bike or bus around town, and using BART for trips to the city and elsewhere.

One problem you will confront upon coming to Berkeley is the matter of finding a place to live. While the drop in the dot-com economy has brought some relief, it is still difficult to find reasonably priced apartments near campus unless you already know people who live in the area. However, many of the surrounding communities -- such as Albany, El Cerrito, and Oakland -- offer affordable housing within an easy pedestrian/bike/bus/BART commute to campus. The moral is, when you decide to come to Berkeley, initiate your search for housing as soon as possible. There are many possible strategies -- for example, taking the first place that looks reasonable and then keeping your eyes and ears open for a better one during your first academic year, or coming early in the summer and spending some time finding an excellent place. Available apartments are listed through the Campus Student Housing Office and through commercial rental bureaus. Yet more useful is word-of-mouth, so don't neglect to send an email to the students of the Astronomy Department or anyone else you know in the Bay Area soliciting vacant rooms.

Any student in the department would be happy to talk to you about the ins and outs of living in the Bay Area while being a member of the Berkeley Astronomy Department. Do not hesitate to contact us. The department's graduate assistant, Dexter Stewart (510-642-8520; ), can put you in touch with a member of the hosting committee, who will be happy to tell you whatever you want to know.


updated June 2004