Friday 21 October 2016

Bohemian spirit and cheap rents draw students to Berkeley

Published 17/06/2015 | 02:30

The Berkeley campanile
The Berkeley campanile
Iconic Victorian houses in San Francisco

The town of Berkeley is one of the most popular for Irish students travelling to the States on the J1 programme.

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Set on the east shore of San Francisco Bay, many Irish students opt for the university town as a base thanks to the cheaper rent available there than in the nearby city.

Famous for its parks and easy access to a vast range of outdoor pursuits, the Californian town is described on the USIT site as an alternative culture hotspot, offering "legendary punk clubs to anarchist libraries".

But it is also a big draw for its bohemian spirit, with visitors enjoying strolls around the famous campus, shopping at its tie-dye street stalls or relaxing in the abundant bookshops and cafes.

Thousands of Irish students flock to the town each summer, making the most of its easily accessible commuter route on the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) trainline to nearby San Francisco where many secure jobs.

Read more: Berkeley tragedy: A dark, dark day in California as six Irish students killed

Another draw is the abundant accommodation in the university town during the quieter summer months. Berkeley's student subletting service is available to summer visitors for a small fee.

Frat houses and Sonorities also offer cheap accommodation during the summer months.

The town which has a population of around 112,580 is famous for its many parks, with the 2,000 acre Tilden Regional Park a huge tourist attraction for its trails, providing facilities for hiking, horseback riding and bicycling.

Read more: Berkeley tragedy: 'I don't think six people have died all at once - it's unthinkable'

Aquatic Park is Berkeley's largest public park with about 32 acres of land and a 67-acre series of lakes and lagoons.

The Berkeley Marina is also popular with students and tourists alike where many gather to fly kites or watch the world go by as the sun sets.

However, it is the university that remains the number one attraction.

With Nobel Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners speaking on a weekly basis, thousands flock to talks or just to take in the Berkeley vibe on what is the oldest campus in California.

Read more: 8,000 Irish students travel to America on J1 visas every year

The student town is also famous for its theatre, with the Berkeley Repertory Theatre among one of the top 10 sites to visit during any trip.

However, while many students make the most of Berkeley's good weather to enjoy the wealth of outdoor pursuits including hiking and water sports, and its bohemian atmosphere, for many the town's main attraction is its easy access to the bright lights and busy streets of nearby San Francisco.

Irish Independent

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