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The University of California

LSE offers undergraduate students the opportunity to spend a full academic year at the University of California in Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego.

American college life seemed as something quite obviously different - from the social side to extracurricular initiatives, sports as well as academia. I wanted to gain a first hand experience of it all.

Marta, LSE-Berkeley exchange student

An information session for students interested in applying to a GO LSE exchange programme usually takes place during the the Autumn term of each academic year.


The University of California was founded in 1868, born out of a vision in the State Constitution of a university that would "contribute even more than California's gold to the glory and happiness of advancing generations." 

Please follow the links below to view specific information relating to the campuses where LSE students can study: 



The scheme is open to all second year LSE undergraduate students (apart from students on the CIVICA Engage Track). Generally applicants are required to have passed all of their first year exams (without resits) and to have achieved a 60% average across their courses.

Fees, Living Costs and Financial Support

Tuition fees

GO LSE students are not required to pay any tuition fees to the University of Californa to participate in the exchange programme. Students will continue to pay tuition fees directly to LSE. Your tuition fee while studying abroad is significantly reduced as compared to when you are on campus. For further information, please visit the fees and funding webpage

Past Student Experiences

Berkeley itself was an interesting city, even after living there for year I felt there was so much I hadn’t seen or explored. When I first moved there, I thought it was much closer to San Francisco and much more like London – both were wrong. San Francisco is roughly an hour away by public transport, and there is not a single resemblance Berkeley holds to London. Berkeley is much smaller, quirkier and is very student-based city. Where Cal students place a lot of value on school spirit and sports. As such the Cal vs Stanford Football game was one of the highlights of my first semester. That being said the coffee is terrible, and you will still buy it (or Boba).

Academically, it was quite an adjustment. The LSE formatives and summer assessments suddenly became weekly assignments, random class pop quizzes, mid-term exams and finals alongside all the usual lectures and classes. There is also no reading week, and 15-week terms! So, while my classes varied from 'War in the Middle East' to 'Learn to Fly Pilots Course', it required an entirely different way of learning and academic onus. One of my favourite modules was ‘AmazonGoogle’ – a hands-on class in defining and building business models in a data-centric way; it covered everything from data-ethics, coding, behavioural economics, and stats. Studying new things was liberating, but I feel ready and refreshed for what awaits in my final year at LSE. As an BSc International Relations and History student, I feel lucky to have participated in different academic fields, while professionally, I established new skills and interests. I also feel prepared to continue to work and study abroad in the future, and to be more open of things outside my comfort zone.

It was not, however, always the perfect study abroad in sunny California. It rains, a lot, more than you think it would, and besides the weather there were some hard moments too. Often these were filled with a sense of saddest or doubt; whether I had made the right decision to leave my closest friends at LSE at such a pivotal point in our degrees and what coming home, and fourth year would be like without them, how much I would miss family, big occasions, and London. Reaching out to other LSE students at Berkeley, really helped me during these times, they knew what I was missing but also encouraged me to think forward to all the opportunities that were still to come. So, it was easy to feel overwhelmed, but for me personally while these were the hardest moments to overcome, in reflection they are my proudest. It wasn’t until the year end, that I realised how I had accomplished and grateful I now am to have had an experience that made stomaching the homesickness worth it.

There will be so many big things to miss – the sprawling campus, the hilly walks, the sun and new things to see. It will be the little things, however, that remain with me. Watching the sunset over Golden Gate Bridge after a long day of class from the Campanile, to catching coffee with friends at the famous Café Strada, the Yerba Matte induced study sessions in the library, study breaks on Berkeley’s Memorial Glade, and the and the weekly American Football games in the Fall and the movie-like reality of Greek Life (Go Bears)! Or even the quaintness of San Francisco’s Marina district in the day and it’s liveliness at night.

On my original application, I had said in my final 20 words that LSE had taught me how to understand the world, and now I wanted Berkeley to teach me how to change it. And while I may still be figuring out the latter, my year aboard certainly changed me. I would recommend studying abroad as it has made me growIsabel Bottley – 3rd year By Isabel Botleypersonally, academically and to put myself out there with a newfound sense of confidence. American college life was something quite different – but I have met friends, enjoyed classes, travelled to new places and have had experiences that I wouldn't change - now that it has come to an end it feels strange to think that I almost missed out on what going to Berkeley could offer me because I lacked the confidence before.

It was a challenging year, but it was an unforgettable experience and is something I will look back on with only the fondest of memories.

By Ifan Peredure Morgan


I will reflect upon my year at Berkeley as one of – if not the – most enriching experiences of my undergraduate years. From meeting Logan Paul in a Las Vegas hotel lobby, to more important stuff like academic and personal development, studying abroad has given me truly unique and special experiences.

Academically, the freedom to move between subjects and disciplines – and away from the domain of my degree at LSE – bolstered my knowledge base, broadened my perspectives, and widened my skills. My classes ranged from Bioethics to Byzantine History in the fall, from Philosophy of Physics to Latin in the spring – but all were designed to outlast their semester. Methods of assessment were much more geared around independence of thought and creativity than in the UK – perhaps best exemplified by history seminars entirely run (and graded) by class debate and discussions on weekly readings. The courses nevertheless still allow you to acquire parts of the wealth of expertise and knowledge held by the faculty. As such, I will be returning to my Economics degree at LSE with a much stronger ability to question what I am taught with a greater depth of criticism.

A highlight of my time at Berkeley was residing at the International House. I-House is a special place, with a rich history approaching a century, and unique offering – I lived with people from over 70 countries during my time there. It is majority post-graduate, and majority international (though a fair amount of residents are native Californians) – meaning I met some truly exceptional people who I would not meet at LSE, or London more generally. Opportunities offered by I-House included staying with an American family, retreats to the Californian countryside, and a chance to meet someone from a different country at each meal time. I strongly recommend I-House to any LSE student going on the exchange at Berkeley.

I explored the Bay Area as well as much of California and the United States during my time at Berkeley – largely with new friends from I-House or my courses. The university gave us free coverage of Bay Area transport – very useful given its size; I especially enjoyed exploring Marin County (Sausalito, Muir Woods), and North-West San Francisco (Presidio Park to Golden Gate Park). The university also facilitated travel by ensuring that finals were done by mid-December – meaning I could take a month-long road-trip over Christmas, with Big Sur, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon being particular highlights.

The city of Berkeley itself is also, of course, an awesome place. You can spot sites from The Graduate, in which many scenes were based and filmed in Berkeley. You can hike many different routes around the hills next to Berkeley, getting spectacular views of Berkeley and the Bay along the way. You can taste the excellent Mexican food on Durant Avenue (the more south you go towards the border, the even better it tastes), and ‘Top Dog’, a local favourite. No visit to Berkeley, however, would be complete without a trip to Moe’s Books – a wise person once said “India has the Taj Mahal, Berkeley has Moe’s”.

Changes in my attitudes and lifestyle which Berkeley fueled are already salient. My heightened interest in the humanities will direct my studies and reading going forward; keen to replicate my I-House experience, I will now be living at International Student House in London during final year; it has whetted my appetite for traveling and learning languages – for example, I am currently writing this in Germany, where I am taking German courses. Overall, I am unequivocal in recommending any LSE student to apply for the Berkeley exchange.



The Opening Scene

My first week of American college felt like a movie. As cliché as it sounds, the sky really was that blue and Californians really were that happy. For me, it was a bright change from life growing up in England, and miles away (literally and figuratively) from anything I had experienced before.

My first week on campus consisted of a 30-degree heatwave (86 Fahrenheit for the Americans); countless unpacking of accents and a jam-packed orientation schedule. The week respite from classes did, however, provide a welcome opportunity to discover the beauty of Berkeley’s campus. Immediately, I was in awe. The backdrop was a striking combination of historic and modern buildings. With the Doe Library having all the grandeur of an Art Museum and the Campanile (you’ll recognise it from scenes in Oppenheimer), towering over the grounds in all its 300-foot glory. I couldn’t help but feel like everything was larger than life here and this was the start of something new.

Transitioning into the ‘Cal’ way of life

From then on, everything was go-go-go. I quickly traded winter coats and the hustle and bustle of London for the famous Cal colours of yellow and blue. Cheering at my first American football game and living with college roommates became the new norm. I found myself sunbathing on the Glade (the park on campus) in between lectures, a definite perk of living in California, and swapping my Pret coffee breaks for afternoon hikes and pilates classes. My CO-OP house, a charitable housing scheme for Berkeley students, was another highlight of my year. Living with over 40 girls introduced me to some of my best friends at Berkeley and other exchange students who were just as eager to discover America. There, I had the opportunity to experience life on Frat Row, live a mere 5-minute walk from the nearest pool and hike on the surrounding mountain trails after class.

Choosing classes: Navigating a range of almost 4000 options

Academics at Berkeley look very different to that of LSE. While the fervour of relentless studying is the same, there is also a wider breadth of subjects offered. With a pick of over 4000 classes per semester and 100 Decals (student-run classes), I was spoilt for choice. The options ranged from courses taught by Nobel Prize winners to more niche subjects like 'Drugs and the Brain’. I opted for a mix of Berkeley's classic ‘must-tries’ alongside my Major requirements. These included 'Intro to Astronomy,' where mandatory labs involved midnight star gazing at the campus observatory and Public Econ classes with Emmanual Saez himself (a lot of the class was him citing his own work). Even Midterms were a new concept as I found myself balancing problem sets alongside 19th-century English Literature essays. The GPA system at an American College also assigns a significant portion of your grade to cumulative work and engagement. This framework fostered a culture of weekly By Vanalika Talatidebates in my Political Economy seminars and many group projects. I even had the opportunity to research for one of my favourite professors as a part-time job.

Extracurriculars - Greek Life to Finance Clubs

While arriving in the US alone was initially daunting, I sought out extracurricular activities to build myself a community. From my first week, however, I realised societies looked very different to what I was used to - think Hunger Games. Dozens and dozens of clubs from Venture Capital to Quadpot would line the edges of Sproul (the campus foreground), and push their flyers into eager, waiting hands. Recruitment wasn’t easy either, with clubs often asking for rounds of interviews to gain a coveted spot in their group. Highlights included participating in Sorority rush, where the extravagance of Greek life was not understated. Four days of countless dresses and rehearsed songs later, and you would finally receive that golden letter inviting you back to the chapter. Joining a Finance club, I was also reminded of the multitude of career options available in the States. It’s these clubs, Greek life and sports that make up a lot of the vibrant, social atmosphere on campus.

Home away from Home

Exploring California and experiencing Berkeley to its fullest also became a priority. This led to some unforgettable road trips from Yosemite to Mexico, celebrating my 21st birthday in Las Vegas, and basking in the breathtaking sunsets of the West Coast. Most weekends, I would end up in San Francisco, a mere forty-minute bus ride away, becoming familiar with the sloping hills and its different vibrant districts – Castro was a favourite of mine. Driving down the Sonoma coast singing along to radio songs, to hiking in 4 feet of snow in Tahoe, I quickly fell in love with the Bay area.

Reflecting back, Berkeley encompassed a lot of things for me. An opportunity to live by myself in a completely new country, 9 hours from familiarity, but also to create a new home and meet people from all walks of life. While studying can be the same in London and California, I appreciate how lucky I was to be taught by such a variety of professors and create all these new, treasured memories, so far away from my usual reality. So, as I sign this off, I hope this post conveyed a little of how grateful I am for the opportunity to live the American Dream.

Travel, Health Insurance, and Visas


GO LSE exchange students are expected to make their own travel arrangements. If you are eligible for Student Finance, you may be eligible for a grant to cover some of your travel expenses. More information on Student Finanace is available in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland can be accessed on each Student Finance body’s website.

GO LSE exchange students will be covered under LSE's Travel Insurance policy, following completion of the notification of travel and risk assessment form.

Health Insurance

Medical treatment in the United States can be very expensive and therefore University of California requires that all students purchase their Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) or an alternate plan with equivalent coverage. 


Most students will need to apply for a J1 exchange visitor visa to study at University of California. It is the student's responsibility to apply for the appropriate student visa.

UCB Visa timeline
An overview of the visa application timeline

For further information, please visit the UCEAP webpages 

For up to date information, please check this page regularly.