I’m from The Bay. From elementary school through community college, I have lived and gone to school in Pleasant Hill, which is about 30 minutes from Berkeley. When I was accepted into Haas, I had a choice: to live at home with family or to find a place in Berkeley. During the two years that I have been at Haas, I have spent time doing both. For many students, it is a big decision to live close to campus or to commute, especially with the inflated cost of living in Berkeley.

My first year, I found the choice obvious. In Pleasant Hill, I knew I would have the comfort of my own home, my bed, food in the fridge, and free parking. In Berkeley, I would be eating Cup-O-Noodles in my $1500+ per month apartment while calculating how many parking tickets I could get before it would be worth paying for a parking pass.

Yet for me, it was still far too expensive to NOT live in Berkeley. Living expenses are tangible and easy to picture, but it is hard to place a value on the experience of living near campus. After breaking it down, I knew that the long-term value I gained from living close to campus outweighed my student loans.

Here are a few reasons that I have used to justify my decision:

Community

There is no way to put a value on the connections I have made at Berkeley. Not to say that commuters don’t make friends, but being in Berkeley does mean being available. When I commuted last semester, I found myself in Berkeley a lot less, and getting FOMO a lot more. I got tired of answering questions like:

Want to study tonight? – “Sorry, I am already at home”

Have a drink with me? – “I can’t, I have to drive.”

Can I come over? – “Nope.”

What is the value of a friend who is there when you need them? A late-night study session with classmates? Doing questionable things with your friends that you should probably never speak of again? I don’t know. But I can imagine the value of discussing the “big idea” for a business, getting a job after hours of practice interviews, and learning from classmates who are future business partners and customers.

I am a firm believer that you want to surround yourself with people that are ambitious, inspire you, and have differing viewpoints on the world. Although they may not be your roommates, Berkeley is full of those types of people.

Accessibility / Opportunities

There is always something awesome happening in Berkeley. My first year, I made an effort to go to every event that I could. I did not find every event entertaining, but I was always glad that I went, so I could explore what Berkeley has to offer. I was able to discover what I do and do not want to spend my time with.

This was especially true with information sessions. If I had not gone to so many Investment Banking info sessions, I may still be interested in pursuing that as a career. Many of the info sessions that I went to were not planned very far ahead, so if I was commuting, I may have not remembered to bring a nice suit that day.

Living near campus, there is never the question of whether to go home or go to an event, because I can do both. Are there office hours later in the day, but I want to go take a nap first? I have time. Is there a club event happening later, but I am very hungry? I don’t have money for Cafe Think, but I sure do have mac n cheese at home. This extra flexibility in a schedule has allowed me to take advantage of many opportunities that I may have missed before.

Sometimes the most exciting days are those that are not completely planned. One day on my way home from class, I found myself in what seemed to be Burning Man, but it turned out to be a large protest in Sproul. Other times, I have bumped into old friends and spent the day with them. Just walking home from school has led me to some great opportunities and experiences, which leads me to my next point.

Commute

I absolutely love walking to school. Aside from the occasional happenings that I previously mentioned, walking to school really beats driving or taking BART or the bus.

Walking gets the body warmed up. Blood starts pumping, brain starts working, and it gives your mind time to digest what you have to do for the day. I don’t usually notice the positive effects of walking, but I do notice a difference in my mental energy when I decide not to walk.

Commuting is not that bad, except when you stress out about traffic in the morning, or are stuck standing on BART, or waiting for a late bus, or when you have to fill up gas, or when you get another parking ticket because of course it is 4th Wednesday of the month and there is street sweeping.

Commuting is expensive not just for your wallet, but for your mind. It is much nicer to wake up and not have to worry about various uncontrollable stressors before you even get to school.

I would rather have debt than regret.

What is important in college is not the ROI on tuition and expenses, but who you become and the experiences that you have with the people you meet. For me, the priceless friendships and additional success that has come from spending additional time in Berkeley, far outweighs the expenses. For other students, the value that they place on factors may be completely different.

I would love to hear your thoughts on what you like about living in or outside of Berkeley.

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