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TheMole

Irvine, CA

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There was a post elsewhere on this, but it seemed to be about UCSB, not UCI.

So, anyone know anything about the OC/Irvine area? I'm scared of it being this commercial/superficial/rich-bitch wasteland where I won't be happy. I'm both a total geek and a bit of a hippie, and I need green around me, and lush green at that. None of this brownish-green crap. I like vibrant art and music scenes and coffee shops that have real local flavor, rather than Starbucks-style glitz.

Thanks!

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Not to be a drag, but from what I heard "commercial/superficial/rich-bitch wasteland" is probably a fairly accurate description. I had a friend that lived in Santa Ana and said that Irvine basically just seems like a one rich suburbia like in Desperate Housewives.

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Hey,

I went to Irvine for four years. Its really not all that bad. The campus is really lush, beautiful, and scenic. There are a myraid of local art gallaries in newport, laguna, and huntington beach areas. Nice beachs. It may be rich and superficial, but there are lots of geeky people there too. Its close to many places to go hiking and other such activities. If you have any specific questions, please ask.

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Don't worry, I'm quite geeky and 2 of my geeky friends are going to Irvine too. We're all Physics majors, so we may not be able to spread our geek influence throughout the campus.

I know someone doing their undergrad there right now, and they say that it really isn't that bad. The campus area is much less superficial than the OC area. I expect to be spending most of my time on campus anyway.

Best of luck

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This is a bit delayed, but I will give you my opinion about Irvine. I HATE Irvine. The University is beautiful and awesome, but the city sucks big time. I hate all of Orange County. It's all shopping and annoying people. I'm from So Cal originally. I did undergrad in San Diego and law school in Orange County, and I just moved back to San Diego because OC is a terrible place to live. It's fine if you like superficiality, but it's awful if you like cool little areas.

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I know this is really late, but I figured it might help others:

About Irvine: UCI is really good about offering entering graduate students housing (-1 year of time to degree) and the housing is REALLY nice for what you usually get at other college campuses. It's also way cheaper than anywhere else in the city (we're talking $900 for a two bedroom instead of $2000+). The campus and the community are nice, clean, and safe. However, there is a certain lack of culture. The City of Irvine is administrated by the Irvine Company (owned by Donald Bren, whose name appears all over campus, even the Claire Trever School of the Arts has ties to him as C.T. is his step mother) so you won't find any of the following in the immediate area: pawn shops, tattoo/piercing parlors, strip clubs, or bars. There is a bar on campus though.

There are cool places to hang out in Orange County, you just need a car to get around. There are several neat hangouts in Newport, Laguna, and Huntington Beach, including a place called the "Anti Mall" by locals. Another good thing about UCI is that they just began a flex-car program and students can sign up for a low fee.

It's also not THAT far from Los Angeles. Sure, you won't be able to go there everyday, but it does make it easier! Also, when you go to a UC you get the benefit of being able to take classes at other UCs. There are three in the area: LA, SD, and Riverside.

It doesn't have the same college culture as anywhere else. That is usually a problem for most people (it was for me when I did my MA there), but it's a good school and a nice place.

Another problem that I had while enrolled there was the overwhelming influence of the sciences and School of Medicine on funding and the campus in general. Sometimes, it was really difficult to be in the Humanities because you just aren't given as much as other people, but we all know that isn't an isolated problem.

I hope this helps! :)

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Is it possible to live semi-comfortably in Irvine/OC on a grad student's budget? UCI says they should be able to fund me (although no official word yet), and my husband-to-be is applying for jobs, but I was just wondering how expensive the area really is. The offer of on-campus housing sounds like it would really help.

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I have been living in the OC quite a while, and I can say that life in Irvine can be pretty depressing. Usually, people in sciences find it not so bad, but humanities grads are often devasteted by the absolute lack of any cultural life.

The only nice things are the ocean and the weather...

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I really appreciate this post. I just got accepted to Irvine yesterday and will visit in a about a month, but my expectations are low because of the stereotypes about the place. I think I could survive 2 years of coursework there if I had to and the housing offer helps. I'm thinkinig I could always move back to Northern California to write my dissertation, but I am definitely concerned about my quality of life plummeting while living in Irvine. I'm trying to keep an open mind, so we'll see.

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There was a post elsewhere on this, but it seemed to be about UCSB, not UCI.

So, anyone know anything about the OC/Irvine area? I'm scared of it being this commercial/superficial/rich-bitch wasteland where I won't be happy. I'm both a total geek and a bit of a hippie, and I need green around me, and lush green at that. None of this brownish-green crap. I like vibrant art and music scenes and coffee shops that have real local flavor, rather than Starbucks-style glitz.

Thanks!

I live in Irvine now. As someone who did their undergraduate work in Santa Cruz, which is an amazing college town, and a fantastic place to live, I was a little disappointed with Irvine at first.

Irvine is, somewhat, as described by an earlier poster. I cant really put words what my initial impressions of Irvine were. You have very wealthy people from Balboa and Newport, the upper part of income bracket for suburban southern California, mixed with the college crowd. The actual area around the university, at first, didn't seem very college towny at all (it reminded me of UCSD a little). You certainly don't have the ambiance of Santa Cruz. There are only a few coffee shops, no real bars or pubs, no record stores, etc.

After a few week living here though, you'll find that there is a vibrant community. Most of the grad students live on campus, where there is a great community, and you'll discover that you can walk almost anywhere. You'll also discover a great art theatre, and some hidden gems.

Now having said ALL that you have to keep a number of things in mind. First Irvine is situated smack dab in between Los Angeles and San Diego. San Diego is about an hour and half drive, and LA varies depending on what part of LA you want to go to. You will find that you are WELL situated to be part of one of the best music scenes in the world. You can easily drive to great record stores, venues, all kinds of shit (pardon the language here). You'll also be 10 minutes away from Newport Beach, easy driving distance to all the beaches in San Diego and LA, 2 hours from the desert, 2 hours from the mountains...

And Irvine is also the "safest" city in the United States.

Is there a moral to the story? Well, I suppose I'd say that Santa Cruz is a better community, UCLA has a better "college community," but Irvine is at least as good as La Jolla (UCSD) and has more going for it than some seem to think.

Cheers

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Is it possible to live semi-comfortably in Irvine/OC on a grad student's budget? UCI says they should be able to fund me (although no official word yet), and my husband-to-be is applying for jobs, but I was just wondering how expensive the area really is. The offer of on-campus housing sounds like it would really help.

If you live on campus, in graduate/family housing with your husband, then yes. I pay around a thousand a month for a two bedroom on campus with my wife. This might seem a lot, but rent in Irvine proper is much more. Plus the graduate community on campus is great, and so are the apartments.

Anyway, my wife and I are both grad students (I at CSU Long Beach and her at Irvine), and we get by quite comfortably.

Cheers

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Can anyone here give me information about living off campus? I'm considering UC Irvine, but I have a dog so I won't be able to live on campus (damned no dog on campus rules!). I like my dog a lot, so getting rid of him is not an option.

The only thing I can find from internet searches is that it is ridiculously expensive, and that every apartment is part of a huge complex, all of which look exactly the same. Is there anything with a little character in Irvine? Has anyone had success living off campus?

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Hi unabridged, same problem here. We've had our dog forever and my 3yr old daughter loves it too much to part with it. I'm scheduled to go out to visit UCI March 7-11 and I'll post any info I get. It's painful to have to decline the university's offer of cheap, guaranteed on-campus housing.

I'm also concerned with finding a place to live that's reasonably urban. It would be rather unpleasant to live in a gated suburban apartment complex after spending the past several years in cities where I could walk or cycle most everywhere.

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I'm going to my department's open house March 6-9th, so we'll see how that goes. If I go to Irvine (which seems very likely at the moment, as it's currently my only acceptance), I'd be living in the university-owned housing with my husband and our cat. I'm used to a relatively rural area, so anywhere is going to be a big change for me. (I did my undergrad at Virginia Tech. There were barns at the entrance to campus, for the agriculture department's livestock, and you'd often see people jogging around the fields of experimental crops.)

I did get my offer of funding from Irvine; it's not bad. My fiance is looking for IT jobs in the area, and the job market for him seems pretty good. He is going to have to be the one earning lots of money, because we know it won't be me :)

By the way, is anyone here vegetarian/vegan, and if so, how are the food options in Irvine and the surrounding area? They're surely better than Blacksburg, but I thought I'd ask anyway.

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Hi unabridged, same problem here. We've had our dog forever and my 3yr old daughter loves it too much to part with it. I'm scheduled to go out to visit UCI March 7-11 and I'll post any info I get. It's painful to have to decline the university's offer of cheap, guaranteed on-campus housing.

I'm also concerned with finding a place to live that's reasonably urban. It would be rather unpleasant to live in a gated suburban apartment complex after spending the past several years in cities where I could walk or cycle most everywhere.

Yea, declining that offer of housing is painful! I'm going out Feb 29-March 2, so I'll also post what I find regarding housing.

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I'm going to my department's open house March 6-9th, so we'll see how that goes. If I go to Irvine (which seems very likely at the moment, as it's currently my only acceptance), I'd be living in the university-owned housing with my husband and our cat. I'm used to a relatively rural area, so anywhere is going to be a big change for me. (I did my undergrad at Virginia Tech. There were barns at the entrance to campus, for the agriculture department's livestock, and you'd often see people jogging around the fields of experimental crops.)

I did get my offer of funding from Irvine; it's not bad. My fiance is looking for IT jobs in the area, and the job market for him seems pretty good. He is going to have to be the one earning lots of money, because we know it won't be me :)

By the way, is anyone here vegetarian/vegan, and if so, how are the food options in Irvine and the surrounding area? They're surely better than Blacksburg, but I thought I'd ask anyway.

I grew up a couple of cities over from Irvine. I haven't lived there for a few years while I've been doing my undergrad work, but I still visit a few times a year. Orange County has a pretty good market for computer-related jobs--my father works in Santa Ana, which is maybe a 20 minute drive away. North county, I think, has a lot of tech firms. Irvine is a pretty upscale (read: yuppie) community, so I don't think you'd have any problem finding vegan/vegetarian food options. I'm sure there are a few grocery stores and restaurants that cater to the vegetarian crowd.

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To all of the dog people:

I have heard, though I haven't verified this fact, that you can have a dog in your on-campus apartment if you get a note from a doctor. Perhaps it is time to start seeing an analyst.

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Hi everyone. Does anyone know of any decent/affordable areas to live in (or areas to avoid) between San Diego and Irvine? Not happy about turning down cheap university housing and having to commute, but my partner is getting stationed in San Diego. We're from the northeast and know absolutely nothing about the area/traffic/rents, etc...so if anyone has any advice at all it would be greatly appreciated!

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I lived near Irvine for a couple years after college and have family and friends in the area, so I will try to address a few questions about housing and lifestyle.

If you are looking between Irvine and San Diego, I would check out San Clemente and Oceanside. San Clemente is a very laid-back town - full of older beach cottages and surfers. Oceanside is a bit bigger and has more of a military presence (lots of Camp Pendleton families live there). Also there is an amtrak line (Pacific Surfliner) that runs from San Diego all the way to San Luis Obispo with stops in Solana Beach, Oceanside, and Irvine. the Irvine stop is not at UCI (unfortunately), but the school has a sustainable transportation center that could help you figure out how to get from the train station to school. The train follows the coast and is very relaxing and beautiful - not a bad way to get to school.

For people looking closer to Irvine, it depends on your age and what kind of lifestyle you are looking for. The Newport peninsula is nice because you can ditch the car and ride your bike around to bars, restaurants, the beach, etc. The area between 30th and PCH is known as the war zone and is known for young people and parties and the area from Balboa to 15th Street is mellower and nice for couples and people who are over the party scene. There is a great little coffeehouse on 31st which has good food and atmosphere (including the requisite mismatched furniture and resident cat) and a few pretty good restaurants (my favorites are Ho Sum Bistro for the mixed salad and the homemade pasta at Il Farro). There is also a new shuttle from Newport Beach to UCI. The key with this area is that most of the homes are owned by individual property owners so the prices vary widely and bargains can be found. The two best ways that I know to find the best and cheapest places are to drive around and look for signs or a website called West Side Rentals. It has rentals in Orange County and Los Angeles.

There are other good towns, depending on how much you want to drive. When I just couldn't take Orange County any longer, I moved to Long Beach, which is a really great, diverse, interesting city. Good bars, coffee shops, restaurants, museums, etc. and is close to both LA and Orange County. It would be a bit of a commute to Irvine, though (30 minutes without traffic).

For the vegetarian/vegan, Orange County is not as easy as LA or the bay area to find veggie fare, but it's probably easier than many other places. There's a Veg Out guide for Southern California that lists lots of places to check out.

Hope this is helpful. I agree with a previous person who said that Irvine isn't the best cultural mecca on the planet, but it does have good qualities and close proximity to the beach, the mountains, the desert, and great weekend destinations (Los Angeles, Mexico, Las Vegas, San Diego, Santa Barbara, etc). You could certainly do worse.

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Well, here's my initial report: a lot of students talked up Long Beach, both for its urban aspects (can walk/bike places, etc) and for the fact that because apartments are individually owned, there are bargains to be found. I'm a little put off by the distance from the university, however (a current student told me she gives herself between 45 minutes and 1 hour for the trip)--if I'm traveling thousands of miles to go to school, why end up an hour away from where I need to be? All of the students and faculty I spoke with who live in Long Beach or LA (an even further commute) lived in the area before starting school, and had roots in these areas.

It looks like the thing to do is to make a trip out a month or two before moving, rent a car, and drive around looking for apartments.

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Just curious as to what information/hints/tips other people received during their visits. Was anyone presented with a better option than "Live an hour away"? At this point (and I am moving with a partner who will, hopefully, be able to get a decent job) I'm planning on biting the bullet and looking for a 2 bedroom with some character fairly close to the university for a bit under 2k/month. Does anyone have any thoughts on Costa Mesa (which, from craigslist searches and mapquest studies seems like my best bet)?

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Nearly all of the PhD students I spoke with live on campus. I guess some people in the program live on campus or nearby until they finish their coursework. Then they move somewhere more interesting and/or affordable while they work on their dissertations. Again, Long Beach was mentioned as a good spot.

I had a rental car and a bike while I was there, and spent some time checking out the area. The one thing I found is that it takes much longer than you think to get around - by bike or car. It made me reconsider the distance I was willing to live from campus.

Costa Mesa did seem to be the best area in terms of convenience, but rental prices don't seem THAT much lower than Irvine. The same goes for most of the other cities in the area. Unfortunately, I don't think there's any easy solution to the off-campus housing problem.

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Hope this isn't too late for those of you who need it. I currently live in Irvine, off campus, about 5 miles away from UCI.

We have a 2-bedroom apt with a huge dog for less than $1800. If you have a smaller dog, you'd likely be able to find something a little closer or a little cheaper. There's a bus that goes right down the street straight to UCI, and most of the major streets have bike lanes that are well used by cyclists. I've done both, and it's not so bad. While there's not much as far as cute, funky, etc. (although I can't speak to on-campus culture), there are some places in Newport and Huntington beaches that might fit the bill. Irvine is very corporate, the perfect planned suburban community (because it is). But it's also super safe and really quiet. If you're afraid of the "OC" types, there's some of those, but there are lots of nice, normal people as well. Like me :D. Oh, and we don't have kids, but it seems to be a great place if you do.

For those who are looking at living in Long Beach, my husband works there and drives there every day. It takes him at least an hour during rush hour, 1/2 hour to 45 minutes on weekends. Unless you're really used to driving in lots of traffic every day, I wouldn't recommend it. It's pretty brutal. You wouldn't save enough on rent for it to be worth it, and I would think you could find enough of a community in the Irvine area rather than having to make that commute.

I like it here, but I'm also a pretty quiet type. It's definitely not funky, kinda cookie cutter, but I think there's bits and bobs of spirit here and there. Hope this helps! If anyone would like more info, feel free to ask.

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While I wasn't overly impressed with Irvine itself, I loved the department when I visited, the people, the funding, and the on-campus housing. My question is, is it possible to survive without a car? My partner and I would like to avoid it, at least the first year, if possible. He has no job yet, so will be job hunting when we get there, but I figure for me it's not a huge deal since I'll be centered on-campus mostly. Groceries, sports/gym seemed like within biking distance, the campus seemed pretty walkable. But what about bars, restaurants? The beach? Nearby cities and around town? Is a car really key?

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