Berkeley Study Abroad Fair - September 27 in the Pauley Ballroom

Erin Tan

Erin Tan

Major: Molecular and Cell Biology, Bioengineering Minor

"The most memorable aspect was definitely my internship itself. From my time abroad, I gained a mentor and a friend in my supervisor, who patiently guided me through my internship. Through this experience, I gained the skills to join a lab at Berkeley the following semester."

 

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

I knew before entering college that I wanted to study abroad because I considered it an essential part of the college experience. I chose to study abroad immediately after my first year because I knew it would be difficult for me to spend an entire summer or semester away once classes picked up. Mostly, I wanted to gain some hands-on experience in a lab before joining one at Berkeley so I could understand the dynamics and demands of such a position. I chose to study in Singapore because my family is Malaysian. Typically, every trip to visit relatives involved a short trip to Singapore. As a result, I was already familiar with life in Singapore. However, I'd only ever been as a tourist, and I wanted a better understanding of their work and university culture.

What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?

During our first few days in Singapore, the program organized a tour of the major cultural heritage centers: Chinatown, Malay village, and Little India. It was interesting to note that despite the efforts to build a single Singaporean identity among a diverse group of immigrants, each ethnic group retained its own unique identity.

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

My biggest concern was managing the coursework and having a full-time internship. I was worried that this would limit my free time on weekends and prevent me from exploring Singapore. I ended up spending more time on weekday nights to work on coursework and made sure to work on a small portion of my assignment every night.

Describe a typical day for you abroad.

On Mondays through Thursdays, I worked in a lab on the university campus at which we were staying. I would wake up at about 8:30 and catch a campus shuttle at 9. It only took 10 minutes by shuttle to arrive at work. On most days, I would work from about 9:30 to 4, but the hours largely varied based on the protocols that needed to be run that day. On my way back from work, I would grab dinner at the school canteen and get back to my room by 6. From there, I would work on some coursework. On Fridays, I attended a class from 9 am to 1 pm. After a short break for lunch, we would visit museums and heritage centers.

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

We were all required to take one online course taught by a Berkeley professor and another on-site course taught by local faculty. The online class I chose was UGIS 158: Global Citizenship. It was a fairly easy class that was not as time-consuming as I anticipated and challenged me to ask my coworkers questions about the local practices and culture. The on-site class was a History of Singapore class that required a good chunk of reading per week. Though the course itself was not extremely difficult, it required a good deal of time beforehand to prepare for.

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

The most memorable aspect was definitely my internship itself. From my time abroad, I gained a mentor and a friend in my supervisor, who patiently guided me through my internship. Through this experience, I gained the skills to join a lab at Berkeley the following semester.

What impact did studying abroad have on you personally?

Because the program was only about 8 weeks long, it taught me how to quickly adjust to new environment. I learned the minor details of navigating an entirely different work culture and how to adjust to everyday life in a different country.

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

I would recommend looking up details about the country itself beforehand. Understanding what languages are spoken, what to expect from the cuisine, and little cultural quirks about the country are all great ways to prepare yourself for the experiences you'll have while abroad.