Name: Rachel Chang
Major: Business Administration
Minor: Energy and Resources
Location: Singapore – National University of Singapore
Program: Berkeley Global Internships
Why did you study abroad?
I wanted to study abroad because I wanted to expand my horizons and further shape my interests. Since I am a Business major and Energy and Resources minor, I wanted to gain more experience in these fields. Singapore is the headquarters of many multinational corporations and faucets a diverse business community. I believe submerging myself in this professional, corporate environment and culture will lead to lifelong personal and intellectual growth. As a result, I hope to be involved with the industry sectors of business and finance in Singapore. Traveling abroad has allowed me to expand my networks and experience business developments and opportunities beyond the Bay Area.
What impact did studying abroad have on you?
Studying abroad has given me so many new perspectives on my future career, my passions and myself. Working for a startup consulting organization abroad has given me the opportunity to observe the various combinations of structures and leadership types and to network with individuals that can offer new perspectives in these exciting fields. Throughout the online course, I learned about the nature of the different types of leaders and how they approach different management tasks including planning, evaluating, decision-making and conflict resolution. This has allowed me to better understand my personality traits, leadership style, and types of organizational structures that could possibly revolve around my traits. This summer has opened many new opportunities for me. There is a whole spectrum of occupations tailored towards my strengths and values. I realized that no matter what direction in life I choose I should follow my passions and not be pressured to pursue something that doesn't make me happy.
What was the most memorable/meaningful aspect of your time abroad?
One of the most meaningful aspect during my time abroad was being assimilated to the culture of Singapore. After a few weeks of familiarizing with the transportation system and interesting places to go, I definitely felt like I was part of the society there. I took a sociology class at NUS on Singapore Society, which helped supplement my experience abroad. I was able to understand the economic and political influences that affect the people from day to day. I could see these influences with each interaction I encountered there.
Describe a typical day for you abroad.
On a typical weekday, I would wake up around 8:30AM, take the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) 25 minutes to Chinatown, and arrive promptly at my workplace at 9:30AM. After dropping my things off, I would stop by at a breakfast place to buy toast with kaya and coffee. My boss would give me assignments to do in the mornings, and I would work on them until lunchtime where the entire office would go to a nearby hawker center, huge outdoor cafeterias with a plethora of food vendors, and eat together. After lunch, I would finish my assignment and leave the office at around 6:30PM. After work, I usually would meet up with other Berkeley students for happy hour, dinner, or any other event we had planned for the evening. Some events included going to a comedy show, a 4th of July celebration, or the movies. On weekends, I would either travel to other countries or explore the city.
Describe your academic experience abroad.
During my time abroad, I took 6 units of class in addition to working full time. I took a 4 unit online Berkeley course about organizational structures. We learned to apply what we learned in the course to analyze our own internships. The other course I took was a 2-unit class on Singapore and Society at the National University of Singapore taught by esteemed sociology professors. This class definitely helped me to assimilate into the Singapore culture and understand the underlying political and economical issues prevalent in the country. This class was held every Friday morning and supplemented with an afternoon fieldtrip. Because we were working full time and had 6 units of class, I definitely felt overwhelmed by the work. Nonetheless, it was a great academic experience that definitely enhanced my trip abroad.
What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?
My most intersting cultural experience abroad would be entering a mosque in Malaysia for the first time. The girls had to cover their shoulders, legs and head. After just minutes of being covered, I was drenched with sweat because of the humidity and heat. It was so peaceful walking in the mosque and learning about the Muslim religion. It was truly an eye opening experience.
What financial advice would you give to future study abroad students?
It is easy to spend a lot of money the first few two weeks of being abroad since students tend to want to try everything. But I would suggest keeping track of daily transactions in an excel sheet. After a week or so, students will be able to budget how much money to allocate on food, transportation or other necessities each week.
What was the biggest challenge/concern of your study abroad experience? How did you respond?
I think the biggest challenge during my study abroad experience would probably be the language barrier. Though most Singaporeans speak English, it was still difficult to understand and communicate. Since the majority of people in Singapore are Chinese, I was able to practice my Mandarin in order to communicate. My Mandarin was definitely pretty rusty at first but the more I spoke it, I felt more comfortable and confident in my abilities. Even when I traveled to Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, many of the people living in these countries understand Mandarin. From my traveling experience, I learned that Mandarin is a useful tool for communication, and I should definitely continue practicing it.
What would you recommend to students considering studying abroad, especially to your country and program?
I would recommend that students be as adventurous as possible studying abroad. Try everything and do everything. Don't shy away from opportunities to go outside of your comfort zone including trying new foods, going to new places or experiencing new cultures. They should definitely come in with an open mind. Because the summer internship is only 6 weeks, I would suggest students to write down a list of things they want to do early on in the trip and try to fit it into their schedules accordingly. I also suggest that students stay a week after the program to really explore.