Berkeley Study Abroad Fair - September 27 in the Pauley Ballroom

Erika Siao

Erika Siao

Major: Political Economy, Data Science

"Studying abroad is one of the best things you could do in college, so if you have the time and resources don't hesitate to do it! If you can, stay with a homestay because it will help you so much with learning the language and getting accustomed with the culture."

 

 

What led you to study abroad? Why did you choose your country/program?

I grew up internationally between California and Beijing, attending international school for a large part of my education. Being exposed to different countries and cultures was a part of my upbringing, and I craved to continue that experience in college. I went to Spain to solidify my Spanish conversation skills, and Germany to get in touch with the German part of my identity!

What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?

I was part of a diverse group of friends through a conversation group I participated in. The most interesting cultural experience I had was when my Syrian and Afghan friends hosted dinner parties and cooked their national dishes for the group.

What was the biggest challenge/concern of your study abroad experience? How did you respond?

One morning, I went outside to get my laundry (my host family typically hung clothes outside in their garden to dry them). The door closed behind me, and I got locked out of my house with no phone or money. I subsequently stripped in my front yard to put on newly dried clothing and hopping the fence outside, took the subway illegally (didn't have my transit pass) to find my friend who I was originally going to meet at a museum. I asked random people on the street if they'd seen her, walked around somewhat aimlessly for several hours (but had some fun times at a bookstore), and finally somehow made it to school to borrow money for food, a phone to text my host mom, and a book to do my presentation which was due the next day.

Describe a typical day for you abroad.

It would be impossible to describe a typical day because each day was so different and I barely had a routine. I try to summarize some of my adventures by going through a pseudo-day here:
https://medium.com/@erikasiao/tuesdays-in-berlin-fc86d2210db7

What coursework did you take while abroad? How did courses abroad compare with Berkeley classes?

I took coursework in German, Psychology (about totalitarianism), Sociology (about migration), and History (European diplomacy). My courses met once a week for 2.5 hours, besides German, which was 3 hours twice a week. The workload was considerably lighter than a Berkeley semester, and I ended up completing most of my assignments during long commutes (since Berlin is a big city and I traveled a lot on the weekends).

What was the most memorable/meaningful aspect of your time abroad?

Getting to know the migrant populations of Berlin and their stories, in conjunction with learning critical migration theory in a course; traveling (especially solo traveling) in a cheap and convenient way throughout Europe; having free time to explore the various, endless facets of Berlin

What impact did studying abroad have on you personally?

Studying abroad has made me a more open-minded, flexible, chill person. Now that I'm back on campus, I'm constantly seeking experiences akin to those I had when I was abroad — engaging in activities that stimulated me, prioritizing new foods/cultures/people, not being too stressed, etc.

What would you recommend to students considering studying abroad, especially to your country or program?

Studying abroad is one of the best things you could do in college, so if you have the time and resources don't hesitate to do it! If you can, stay with a homestay because it will help you so much with learning the language and getting accustomed with the culture. For my program specifically, I would recommend doing some research into activities you can do to further integrate into the city (since the classes you take are only among exchange students, and university in Germany is not seen as the center of your life as it is in the US).