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Golden Bear Orientation: Explaining the $475 charge on your CalCentral

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APRIL 21, 2023

Golden Bear Orientation, or GBO, is a freshman’s first slice of UC Berkeley life — minus the piles of problem sets, midterms and 8 a.m. bleary-eyed sections. 

GBO is sectioned into different groups depending on which dorm you live in. Most likely, you’ll end up having your roommate and floormates in your group. These are the people you will spend an uncomfortable amount of time with for the next four days.

Each GBO group is led by two continuing students who are either incredibly unenthused to be there (they don’t get paid) or some others that are just really excited to show you around. Some may invite you to their parties on frat row and buy you edibles. Others will awkwardly force everyone to play icebreakers. It really speaks to our campus diversity.

As you meet and introduce yourself to your group, get ready to repeat the same four things. Name. Major. Where you’re from. Instagram. 

And just like that, you’ll have gained 50 new followers and a few new friends. 

Some people hit it off right away. They start dating during GBO and stay together throughout their undergrad years. Sometimes — most of the time — you drift away from your GBO buddies, and awkwardly wave every time you see them in the bathroom. 

There is an itinerary that GBO leaders follow. Events you go to, shows to catch late at night. Much of it depends on what events your leaders pick out. During my GBO, we went on an Ikea run as a group to buy dorm essentials, but other groups went to Trader Joe’s together. Whatever it is, the main purpose is to get you familiar with the campus and city a little more before classes start. 

You will most definitely see dozens of freshmen in large groups blockading entire sidewalks on Telegraph — all giddy with their bright yellow GBO lanyards. You may very well be in one of those groups! Be forewarned, though, that you will get some dirty looks if you’re blocking the narrow sidewalks on campus. 

GBO emphasizes college safety via a play that is acted out by very passionate theater students about sexual consent, alcohol safety, dating or all of the above (probably all of the above). Thinking about skipping the show? Too bad — Carol Christ foolproofed this one by assigning a mandatory quiz on bCourses!

Besides the more serious health and safety events, nothing in GBO is actually mandatory. 

By day three or four you probably won’t even want to go to some events. On the last days of GBO I ended up exploring Berkeley with my own group of new friends, but conveniently showed up to meet my GBO leaders during dinnertime to receive the meal tickets to spend on the food trucks and local restaurants. 

Of course, only after skipping a bunch of events did I find out that GBO costs a whopping $475. On the plus side, if you are lucky enough to get a GBO group who you get along with, you won’t want to miss out on anything. 

GBO easily transitions you into the hectic UC Berkeley lifestyle by cramming your schedule with fun activities; think of it as a last hurrah before you are plopped into the world of competitive club recruiting, large lecture halls and okay-ish (at best) dining hall food. 

Welcome to UC Berkeley!

Contact Joann Moon at 


APRIL 21, 2023