Summer Opportunities Fair on Wed, Feb 5, from 2-4 pm at MLK Jr. Student Union.

Maria Perez

Maria Perez

Major: IB - Human Biology and MCB - Biochemistry

"I think that the most memorable part of my time abroad was definitely the weeklong field trip to Malaysia where I conducted my own research project with my group. My project was about the carbonate budget of the coral reefs on the island. I got to spend my entire time snorkeling in the ocean conducting research as well as experiencing the beauty of the sea. I got to swim with sea turtles, jellyfish, and so many other sea animals. I enjoyed every single second of my research as well as the time on the resort where we were staying."

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

After going abroad once to Ireland, I knew that I wanted to study abroad again since this was the first time I had ever traveled outside of California. After looking through some of the programs that were offered and that would fulfill my major requirements I decided to go to Singapore. Singapore offered a program where I would be able to finish one of my upper division requirements. The main reason why I decided to choose this program was because I would be taking a biodiversity field studies class that included a weeklong field trip where I conducted research on an island in Malaysia as well as learning more about how Singapore and Southeast Asia are biodiverse. This was the perfect country to learn more about this topic.

What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?

The most interesting cultural experience I had abroad would probably be the hawker centers that are found all over Singapore. Hawker centers are like food courts that vary from small to very large and are usually open and can be seen from the streets. They are the best places to get food and are pretty cheap. Some do seem a little sketch and dirty but don’t be fooled because they are great. One thing to be aware of is that in some hawker centers the people who go around and clear and clean tables will actually get made when you clear your own table. They feel that if everyone cleaned their own tables then they would be out of a job so they prefer that you don’t put things away.

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

The biggest concern that I had during my study abroad experience was the workload and intensity of my courses. I have heard from others that Singapore was known for its rigorous academics and intense students. I felt that I might be behind in terms of what local students had already learned and that expectations were very high. I did feel that at points my courses were very intense and required a lot of work to be done. I always had something to do and at times many deadlines and exams were on the same day. In order to prepare for this I did do work every single weekday and also did some work on the weekends. I spaced out my time and was as efficient as possible so that I could still travel around and see Singapore.

Describe a typical day for you abroad.

We had a premade schedule already made for us that changed to some extent every week. On a typical day I either had my Biodiversity lecture in the morning from 9-11:30am followed my Mandarin class from 1-4pm. On some days we had our language class in the morning and then again after lunch. After class I would do some homework, explore the campus, and go swimming at the gym. On weekends I explored the city and went to some really cool landmarks. During my week in Malaysia I would wake up at 7:30am and have breakfast. From 9-3pm I would go out into the field and collect data for my research. After that we would rest for a bit and do data analysis. After dinner at 6pm we would hang around the resort and relax for the next day of data collection.

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

I took Field Studies in Biodiversity and choose Mandarin as my language course. I have never taken a language class at Berkeley so I can’t compare to it, but I do think that the language class was intense. We learned a lot in the span of a 5 week program and so it was important to stay on top of it so that you actually learned the language and didn’t forget. The Biodiversity class I took compared to nothing I’ve ever taken at Cal. I would say that the class itself was not very rigorous but it was incredibly interesting. We only had one quiz that was not very hard as well as other small assignments, including a presentation with your group about your project and findings. The bulk of the class was based on a ~10 page research paper based on your research project. I think that this was the hardest part of the class as well as the most time consuming because you have to prepare your research project over a long period of time and then explain it.

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

I think that the most memorable part of my time abroad was definitely the weeklong field trip to Malaysia where I conducted my own research project with my group. My project was about the carbonate budget of the coral reefs on the island. I got to spend my entire time snorkeling in the ocean conducting research as well as experiencing the beauty of the sea. I got to swim with sea turtles, jellyfish, and so many other sea animals. I enjoyed every single second of my research as well as the time on the resort where we were staying. Part of what made my experience so great was because of the people I met in my program. I made friends with almost everyone in my program that included other international and UC students but also the local students. Some of my closest friends during the program were actually 2 Singaporeans that were the friendliest people ever. They showed my around Singapore and always hung out with my other friends and I.

What impact did studying abroad have on you personally?

My study abroad experience was amazing in every aspect. After studying abroad in Singapore and finishing my program, I have given a lot of thoughts about what I might want to do in the future. I always knew I loved the ocean and swimming but after spending a whole week in the ocean collecting data I am interested in maybe pursuing a masters in marine biology and doing more research on coral reefs. I am determined to get diving certified and snorkel whenever possible. I was also so incredible to learn more about biodiversity and the effects that humans have on habitats. The trip only further demonstrated to me how much I love learning about biodiversity and biology in general.

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

I would recommend students to first look into programs that might help them satisfy requirements for their major and that catch their interest, even if it might be in a country you never really saw yourself going to. I would also recommend that students try to get familiar with the culture of the country they are studying in and make the most out of their time there. It would also be super beneficial to get to know some of the local students so that they can give you recommendations as well as teach you more about the country.For students doing my program or students going to Singapore, I would recommend buying an MRT card that works the same way as the AC Transit card. The public transportation in Singapore is super convenient and cheap. It will literally take you all over Singapore. I would also recommend that students make the most of their time there and really take advantage of what professors have to offer because they really know a lot about biology and biodiversity.