The Berkeley Bubble


I’m over 9 weeks into my year abroad at the University of California, Berkeley and I feel it’s that time in the semester where a bit of reflection would be a nice break from the 100 pages of reading, 4 problem sets, 3 journal entries, 2 presentations and 1 group project due tomorrow – so here we go!

Currently ranked 4th in the world’s top Universities by U.S. News, the University of California, Berkeley holds a large inventory of assets. From Nobel Prize winners to Olympians, Berkeley has produced some of the world’s greatest people, companies and ideas. I have never felt so inspired to be better; to learn because I want to, not because I have to. The campus breathes excellence and sweats determination.

The opportunities here are endless and everything is unnecessarily extravagant or extreme. The good things are incredible and the bad things are awful, it makes England seem like such an average and grey existence (which I also really miss!). The students at Berkeley are plunged into a pool of driven and talented individuals. With a baffling range of courses and hundreds of events and activities, there is so much opportunity to learn more about the world. And it gets better, the forward and friendly nature of the people – despite clashing with the awkward English charm – is only benefitting me. I smile more, I laugh more and I’m better for it.

But there’s a stranger side to Berkeley and for an outsider, it doesn’t take long to see it – the people. Let me explain. I’m sitting in one of the libraries in the first week and it’s there – the standard Berkeley student in their natural habitat – worlds away from UEA. Intoxicated with caffeine, the Berkeley Student can often be found in the depths of one of the 41 libraries on campus and surrounded by an assortment of apple products, 5 textbooks and a sports bottle. Although sleep deprived, the standard Berkeley Student has evolved to concentrate for long periods of time, with recordings of some staying in this state for over 16 hours. Interestingly, the Berkeley Student has developed the skill of perfectly coordinating their attire to look like that they go to the gym. This is an attempt to fool the opposite sex for mating season.

The course of natural selection for the Berkeley Student is determined by a curve process. Sabotage and independence are key to survival in the wild and with the survival mark at 70%, it is important that the species are aware of the weakest in the pack. Only some will make it.

In between the long meditative states, known as ‘knowledge absorbing’, the Berkeley Student spends time worshipping the elite. Filling stadiums in the region of 60,000 is not uncommon and chants are used to connect with their heroes. Recently there has been sightings of groups of Berkeley Student combining and consuming a form of liquid which enhances the level of worship. This process is known as pre-worship.

I do not claim to know everything about the Berkeley Student but I can claim that they are an inspiration to the average student. I can only dream to be half as driven as the students here at UC Berkeley, but with this intensive work ethic comes responsibility, stress and kegs of pressure. There is a strong underlying passion for knowledge and no one should settle for anything less.

I am very much enjoying this new habitat and although my life expectancy as a Berkeley Student is somewhat short, I have already learnt so much that I can take forward into my future adventures!

The Berkeley campus is in a great location for exploring neighbouring cities, San Francisco and Oakland. Sporting and music events are frequent and the Bay Area hosts a vast variety of cultures to explore. Since I’ve been here, I’ve met some great people and I’ve had the opportunity to do things that I never thought I’d have the chance to do. The work is tough and the intense constant assessment means that I am not able to travel as much as I would like, but that’s the compromise of studying Mathematics (or ‘Math’ as I am reluctantly becoming accustomed) at one of the best universities in the world! I’ll end this blog with my three main goals that I set myself for my year abroad:

  • Learn as much as possible;
  • See as much as possible, and;
  • Not get deported, accidentally or otherwise.


Fraser Holmes-Mackay (MTH)


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