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7 Things To See On Your Campus Tour of UC Berkeley
If you are looking for a college atmosphere that is open-minded, always exciting, and filled with academic excellence, the University of California Berkeley is the university for you. It is ranked as the top public university in the United States, and it is home to 22 Nobel Laureate Professors. It is also one of the largest undergraduate research institutions in the country.
Established in 1868, the university has a rich history of forward thinking and change. It was the flagship college of the University of California system, which has given the university the right to call itself “Cal”. You will often find locals and students referring to the university as Cal.
In the 1960’s, UC Berkeley played a large role in the free speech movement, organizing mass student protests that garnered the attention of the entire country. Since then, Berkeley has made a name of itself as having a liberal mindset and a home to many free thinkers. The university prides itself on its quirky and diverse campus. Any type of person can find a home at this university.
UC Berkeley is located in California’s Bay Area, a 25 minute drive from San Francisco. It’s worth taking a campus tour of the university to see not only the beautiful campus, but also its lively surroundings. If you’re looking for things to see during your campus tour of UC Berkeley, read on to discover the best spots in the opinion of a current UC Berkeley student.
1) Doe Library
When a student thinks of the UC Berkeley campus, one of the first images that comes to mind is the iconic Doe Library. With its unique neoclassical architecture, it is the main library of the UC Library system. Doe Library is where students go to study, do club photoshoots, and take their graduation pictures. It makes for a spectacular backdrop.
Doe Library is open to the public, so when you go inside, be sure to check out the small exhibit in the front of the library. Then, make your way down the marble steps to the North Reading Room, one of the most aesthetically pleasing study spots on the UC Berkeley campus. The ornate ceiling, the huge windows with lots of natural light, and the wooden tables make you feel like you’re at Hogwarts!
In addition, Doe Library has the Morrison Reading Room, a lesser-known study space at UC Berkeley. This particular library room was set up to be an escape for students from the rigors of academic life. The library offers fiction and non-fiction books with plush seats for leisurely reading. You will never find a student on their laptop in the Morrison Reading Room. Electronics are not allowed in order to maintain the relaxing and calm atmosphere.
What truly sets Doe Library apart from other university libraries, however, is that it is connected through underground and aboveground tunnels to two other libraries on the UC Berkeley campus: Bancroft Library and (Gardner) Main Stacks. Together, they make up the largest network of undergraduate research libraries at a public institution in the United States.
2) The Campanile
The Campanile is a symbol and a beloved spot on the UC Berkeley campus. It is the third tallest bell and clock tower in the world, and students love to come here to relax in between classes and enjoy the spectacular view.
The top of the Campanile has an observation deck with a 360 degree view of Berkeley and the Golden Gate Bridge. The trip up to the observation deck is free for students, staff, faculty, and children under age 3, and $3 for everyone else. There is rarely a line to get to the observation deck, and you can stay up there as long as you want.
While you’re on the UC Berkeley campus, make sure to listen for the Campanile’s Carillon concerts that occur three times a day. The Campanile plays a variety of songs, from classical Beethoven to Bollywood hits. It’s always a treat to hear what songs will be played on any given day.
3) Memorial Glade
Memorial Glade is a large grass field located right outside of Doe Library in the middle of campus. It is a great place to sit down and have a picnic while admiring the gorgeous Berkeley campus. On a day with good weather, you’ll find students out on the glade playing sports or studying with friends.
Memorial Glade is also a place where many school events take place. If you’re lucky, there might be a random carnival or festival on the glade during your campus visit. If you stay until the evening, you’ll often find free movie screenings and concerts on Memorial Glade.
Finally, if you come during the week before final exams, you’ll find llamas from a petting zoo. The university brings the llamas to campus as a stress-relieving mechanism for students, but anyone can approach and pet them.
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4) The First Floor Dinosaur Exhibit in the Valley Life Sciences Building
This small exhibit is free, open to the public, and inside the beautiful Valley Life Sciences Building (VLSB). The entire exhibit features dinosaur fossils and skeletons that were recovered by Berkeley professors.
The centerpiece of the exhibit, however, is in the middle of the VLSB atrium. There, you’ll find a fully recovered freestanding mount of a Tyrannosaurus Rex that was recovered by a Berkeley professor.
If you step right outside of VLSB through the north entrance, you’ll find a special bench and wall designed by Berkeley physicists. If you face the semi-circular bench, find the middle of the bench, stand where the tiles meet the cement, and speak, anything you say will echo back to you. This will only work, however, if you stand at that one spot. This is a quirky spot on the UC Berkeley Campus that is worth trying out!
5) Durant Square
Durant Square is the most popular food spot for college students who live off the South Side of the UC Berkeley campus. It is one block off of the Southern edge of campus on Durant Avenue.
Durant Square is a small plaza of restaurants and boba tea cafes—it is not a very appealing-looking place, and it is easy to miss if you don’t know where it is. However, it’s got some of the cheapest and most delicious food for students in Berkeley, especially those on a budget.
Note that while Durant Square is the official name of this plaza of restaurants, many students and locals refer to it as “Asian Ghetto.” If you want to get an unfiltered look at where students spend their time off campus, Asian Ghetto is a must-see.
6) Free Speech Movement Cafe
As a student, this on-campus cafe is not only a convenient place to get a quick bite to eat during a long study session in Moffit Library or Main Stacks library, but it is also a testament to Berkeley’s rich history of equal rights and progress.
The Free Speech Movement Cafe (fondly known as FSM) was created as a tribute to Berkeley’s role in the Free Speech Movement and Mario Savio, who played a key role in the struggle for Free Speech. When you walk into the cafe, the walls and tables are plastered with newspapers and pictures talking about Berkeley, the free speech movement, and other social and political issues. Going to FSM is like getting a meal and a walk through history at the same time.
Berkeley provides bulletin boards outside the cafe with the covers of various newspapers from around the world on that particular day. The point of this is to keep students informed about the most pressing issues of the day and allow people to see the world from many different perspectives.
You will rarely find FSM empty. Students love this cafe for its fresh ingredients and its proximity to libraries and other buildings on campus. In addition, many GSI’s (Graduate Student Instructors) will claim a table in FSM and hold their office hours there. Students can approach their GSI individually and ask any questions they may have about the course material.
7) People’s Park
People’s Park is three short blocks away from the South Side of campus on Telegraph Avenue. On the outside, People’s Park is simply a large park in the middle of Southside Berkeley. However, it also plays a significant role in the rich history of the University.
Before the lot was decorated and a park was put in, People’s Park was essentially a patch of grass where Berkeley “hippies” used to hang out in the late 1960’s. This was a time of great conflict between the free-loving students and the university administration. In 1967, the students were forcibly removed from the park so that university dorms could be built on the lot.
In 1968, the university ran out of funds to build the dorms, so the project was scrapped. People’s Park became a muddy site of debris and broken cars. In reaction to this, student and community volunteers came in and cultivated a beautiful park with grass, trees, and flowers.
However, on May 15, 1969, a day known in Berkeley as “Bloody Thursday”, Governor Ronald Reagan called Berkeley “a haven for communist sympathizers, protesters, and sex deviants”, and sent the California Highway Patrol and and Berkeley police officers to forcibly remove the students and community members. This led to a violent protest and riot in Berkeley. 128 Berkeley residents and 111 police officers were injured.
Today, People’s Park is a free public park with many volunteer gardens and a basketball court. Students who pass it on their way to class are reminded of Berkeley’s rough history against the administration and the spirit of protest on the UC Berkeley campus. If you decide to visit People’s Park, however, take caution; while it has a rich history, it has also developed a reputation for crime.
Berkeley is beautiful, quirky, and rich with history both on campus and in the surrounding area. When you arrive on campus, you will instantly feel the spirit of freedom and protest. More importantly, however, you will be exposed to the brilliant minds and the best academic programs of any public university in the nation.
If you would like to learn more about UC Berkeley, other elite institutions, and campus tours check out these posts:
Lastly, if you know you want to apply to competitive universities, check out our Elite Universities Applications Assistance. You’ll get paired with an Apps Consultant who is an expert in Ivy (and equivalent) admissions. You’ll receive extended attention on your essays, and extra time will be dedicated to making sure that your admissions narrative is unique and reflective of you as an individual.