Ultimate South Bay Guide For Interns

Congratulations on getting your first, or second, or fifth internship in the Bay Area! 🌉 You must love tech! 💻

This article is for interns who are extroverted, from major cities, and would like to make the most out of your summer social life in the Bay, in specific — South Bay.

In my short and sweet stay in Mountain View, I got to visit Pixar, 23AndMe, Quora (in addition to so many other tech companies!); went to a music festival by the beach; spent most weekends in SF (despite living almost 2 hours away in Mountain View); met Marissa Mayer; interacted with Emily Chang (author of Brotopia); and even have a favourite Google building for lunch (1365 is awesome 🤤) Attending countless intern events, re-connecting with university friends, and meeting new people every day helped me build more meaningful friendships, expand my startup network, and have so much fun!

A little bit about me: I’m Tania, study in HK, and I did a 6-month internship in a startup called Zingbox in Mountain View writing front end code. I am quite extroverted — I get energy from socialising and meeting new people. You should be able to tell from the rest of the article. I spent most of my weekends in SF because I am a city girl, but I still made the most out of living & working in Mountain View.

Here are a few things I’ll write about:

  1. Understanding your internship
  2. Housing
  3. Transportation
  4. Fun stuff (so what can I do exactly other than work???)
  5. How I got the most out of my 6-months

Ok let’s start with “Understanding your internship”.

Your internship is highly correlated to your social life, especially if it’s your first time interning in the Bay Area! Are you working at Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Nvidia, Adobe, Cisco… etc? Are you in the Bay for summer internship programs, off-cycle internships or 1-year long internships?

  • Working at a big company: you have a huge network of intern friends already who you will spend a lot of time working together (though on different teams), doing intern activities (Microsoft even flies you out to Redmond for a 1-week intern week, last year Pitbull was a featured as a suprise artist 😳). There’s probably an intern group chat, and most interns probably get housing together (many companies provide housing for you), so you won’t have to worry too much about not knowing anyone in the Bay Area, and how to not feel too lonely. Some friends I’ve talked to literally never interacted with people out of their company’s group of interns over a course of an internship program. Given that there are hundreds to thousands of interns depending on company size and its intern programs — that’s a lot of people already.
  • Working at a startup: You’re in luck. There are probably just 10 or fewer interns in the entire startup, and you likely will feel more like a full time employee. There probably aren't many intern specific events at work, so if you don't know anyone in the Bay Area prior to this internship, “housing” & “events” can make your social life easier. If you have friends from your university interning in the Bay as well: tag along their intern activities 🤯, then it’s not that hard to make friends.
  • Summer internships: you’re in the Bay Area where thousands and thousands of other interns are also there! interncommunity.com is a great organized platform that benefited me a lot and helped me navigate the Bay Area while I was there. You will see fun tech events hosted by big companies literally every day, sometimes even 3+ events crash on the same date (I recall one night Portfolia had an “Investing in FemTech” event in Palo Alto, Uber had an open house, and there was another event in SF “@20 — What I Wish I Knew @20 Intern Event”). There will be fun summer parties, major ones are probably: Startup Grind Summer Party (Free), TechCrunch Summer Party (Paid, but you could volunteer) and endless other intern parties (from interncommunity.com or just interns hosting their own parties).
  • Off-cycle internships: you don’t get the crazy thousands of interns running around the Bay Area with you. There are other interns, of course, but many might 1) have enough friends to begin with 2) don’t really mind not socializing. In my opinion, this is a great opportunity to meet people who are living in SF/ Bay Area long term, and to join more professional events (not intern-specific). My tip is: if you can’t find a community, create your own (and leverage existing platforms like interncommunity.com and other Facebook groups: LSH, The Violet Society, Female Founders Community, Bay Area Interns…etc).
  • Perks and benefits of your respective company: does your student insurance still apply during your internship? Does your company provide health insurance? Do you have housing/ transportation reimbursements? How would your budgeting be like over your internship period? Are you trying to save up while on your internship?

Let’s move on to “Housing”.

Location is really key. Everything is so spread out in South Bay, so if you don’t have a car, and don’t want to spend hella on Uber/Lyft rides (if your company reimburses you then you’re lucky) then you better choose a place with good access to supermarkets, restaurants and ideally the Caltrain station (especially if you’d like to go to SF often). Close to an In-n-Out or Five Guys is always a plus (normal South Bay restaurants, excluding Palo Alto & San Jose, don’t go past 9pm). Palo Alto seems to be the most poppin’ when it comes to nightlife, and there’s San Jose and Mountain View. If you’re living south of Mountain View, I doubt you’d want to go to San Francisco much. In my experience, Sunnyvale & Santa Clara are really quiet. Cupertino is too but it has a few good boba places & really good Asian food. Places like FB housing groups, PadPiper, and CraigsList will be your best friend 🙌🏼. Personally I found housing via CraigsList! A lot of people are looking for roommates during internship periods too :) you are not alone in the housing search.

Tips: Find or create a community house and live with cool people OR live with friends you know already and enjoy spending time together OR find a convenient location and socialise crazy outside of work/ home — this is what I did!

Transportation

A lot of companies have TicketsAtWork perks and you can get discounts for car rentals as well (know your perks)! However if you are under 25 years old, might need to pay more insurance for underage fees. Personally, most of my weekends are spent in SF and I had Uber-reimbursement for getting to work so a car rental didn’t make too much sense.

Other options:

  • Caltrain: this is the cheapest to get around cities in South Bay or to SF. During commute hours it comes every 15–30 minutes, during off hours it comes every hour or so. I come from Hong Kong so this is really inconvenient imho.
  • Uber/Lyft: good for short distance, or you’re just loaded and can pay SF <> South Bay trips regularly (using a lot of SF <> South Bay references because I like the social scene in SF too much). You can also get 2 dollars back per ride by linking your Uber account to ShopYourWay (I’ve used my cashback money to buy all kinds of household stuff like slow cookers and bedsheets all for freeeeeeeeee) or other apps.
  • Bike! Makes getting around less painful!
  • Get a car… I have friends who drove all the way from Michigan/ Minnesota to the Bay with their cars. Mobility is really nice in South Bay, your food-cost-life balance will be better if you own a car. Note: If you want to drive to SF from South Bay, SF parking is horrid — beware.
  • Scoop/ Waze Carpool are so amazing for commuting SF <> South Bay Monday to Friday during typical commute hours. I like to come back to South Bay Monday morning to go to work, so $10 for SF to Mountain View door-to-door was amazing. Trust.
  • Walk: I lived close enough, within 20 minutes walking, to many things other than my work — so from grocery shopping to hanging out in Mountain View, getting to and from Caltrain station, I mostly walked.

Fun Stuff! What are fun stuff to do in the Bay?

  • Weekend Roadtrips 🚙: Ocean Beach, Lands End (these 2 parking might be tough because they are in SF), Half Moon Bay, Big Sur, Carmel (my fav), Santa Cruz, LA (really pushing it for a road trip — recommend flying or bus-ing, seriously), Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, Napa
  • Parties: Honestly if you can't find one, host one (I hosted my own Bachata party!)✌🏼; As mentioned early: interncommunity.com is a great channel to find new friends and find parties to go to. Last year on the 4th of July I went to 3 parties through interncommunity.com… 😳 If you are friends with people who are living in dope community houses, everyone likes throwing parties in the summer. Most big company interns like to host parties too — maybe at their dope company housing 😉. Other events to look out for: TechCrunch Summer Party (free if you volunteer); Startup Grind Summer Party (free!); Google Cloud Next Conference (tickets usually come w a free concert — last year I saw The Chainsmokers Live 🥰)
  • Mountain View specific (cuz I lived there): Monday nights 7pm — Red Rock Coffee Open Mic; Wednesday/Friday nights — Bachata/Salsa @ Alberto’s Night Club; Drinks at Mervyn’s every night; Grabbing free food at Google (your friend who works there is your homie 🤫); Join a gym…. I joined SMASH GYMS for their kickboxing; Eating on Castro Street (the one and only street of downtown 😬) — CrepeVine, Ramen Izakaya Yu-Gen, Pho To Chau & Oren’s Hummus are all pretty great 👅
  • Events: If you love events & networking like me… LunchClub.ai, Eventbrite, Meetup.com, interncommunity.com, Facebook events, Facebook groups (Ladies Storm Hackathons, LSH BAE, The Violet Society, Female Founders Community) are your best friends. Note: in the summer most tech companies have recruitment events (or “tech talks”). Also, feel free to reach out to different interns in different companies for company tours (yet again, interncommunity.com and other Facebook groups are great sources)! I visited Google, Facebook, 23AndMe, Quora, GRAIL (South Bay companies), Pinterest, Segment, Twitter, Rainforest QA, Scale.AI (SF companies),… via different events/ office tours!

So last topic: How did I get the most out of my 6 months?

During the summer — on weekdays — I spent 8 hours of my day at work, and lined up every evening with events (easier if they are in Palo Alto/ Mountain View/ Sunnyvale) and dinners with new friends. When summer was coming to an end, I discovered Open Mic @ Red Rock Coffee and went there religiously almost every Monday afterwards (even tried standup comedy at open mic once 😝). Soon after I started discovering communities like Mission Control (not the play party place in Oakland), Castro Crib, Fell House, Minerva students… etc (they're all in SF). It’s just much easier to make friends in SF if you are in the Bay not during the summer (less interns for off-cycle internships!). I spent every weekend throughout my stay in the Bay in SF (got lucky and always had a place to crash) hanging out at Dolores Park, going to Female Founder Happy Hours and other events. I went to several DJ shows and a music festival. After summer ended, I didn’t do too much crazy networking, event hunting or traveling, but just focused on living in the city (and Mountain View, barely). 🏔

I became so much closer with a school friend who lived in SF during the summer because I crashed at her place every weekend and we went to events together. I even met my boyfriend through going to startup-related events in SF. From not knowing anyone in the Bay prior this internship to now in the process of starting a femtech company with Entrepreneur First in Hong Kong, the network I have built over time in Femtech, female founders communities, VCs, and startups in general has been really helpful! Thank you SF/Bay Area!

I hope the examples in this article will be useful for your upcoming internship in the Bay Area. I really liked both SF and Mountain View a lot in different ways, hope you do too!

Ta-da! There’s your ultimate South Bay guide as an intern. All in all, there’s a lot to do in the summer (especially if you work in a big company with big intern programs); if you’re working hard for a return offer — don’t forget to relax a little, make a few new friends and enjoy the city (SF)! For meeting people: other than going to events, grabbing coffee ☕️ is always great. Bay Area people generally are quite down to meet.

Side note: for fellow ladies out there — I’ll write a separate guide on how not to accidentally be misleading (dating wise); from experience: anything happening after sundown/ over the weekends & alone can be easily considered as a date/ flirting. Otherwise, grabbing coffee is great. ✌🏼

Have fun in the tech capital of the world 🌎, make the most use of your time⌚️, and all the best 💯🎉!

Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn — I’d love to share more about Entrepreneur First (they have global locations!), chat about femtech, or if you just want to say hi 👋🏼

i write code and throw parties. currently coding @gitstart.com and writing a bilingual mental health newsletter

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