Berkeley Study Abroad Fair - September 27 in the Pauley Ballroom

Robin Zhang

Robin Zhang

Major: Environmental Science

"Because everyone knows their time during study abroad semester is limited, they tend to open up and be their true self, which makes it easier for genuine and meaningful friendships to be formed. Trying to adapt to a new environment together makes people closer than they imagine, and I'm blessed to still be in contact with the friends I made while studying abroad almost two years ago."

 

 

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

A friend during freshman year strongly recommended it to me. He was the security monitor in my building and we would have quick conversations about his experience in studying abroad in Spain. Even in those short talks I could sense how much enjoyed the experience, so I decided to pursue it myself. Singapore is one of my favourite cities, and is geographically close to the other Southeast Asian countries, so Singapore gives me an opportunity to visit other cities during my semester there such as Taipei and Bali.

What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?

I was thoroughly amazed by how high quality of living in Singapore is. Public facilities are clean, public transport is convenient, and local Singaporeans are friendly and very welcoming towards foreigners. You could spend hundreds at a fancy restaurant or spend a few bucks at a Hawker center and you will genuinely enjoy both of them. Additionally, despite how small the city is, it is a dynamic and vibrant place that offers enough for all visitors to truly enjoy their time there.

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

The main challenge for me was finding the balance between work and play. Studying abroad is such a fun experience as you get to explore a new city with new friends, so it is easy to develop a mindset where academics is ignored and serves as an afterthought. It's important to allocate enough time for studying as that should still be the priority for us as students.

Describe a typical day for you abroad.

Grab a quick breakfast at the cafeteria located right next to student housing. Take the campus bus to get to classes throughout the day, and there are multiple cafeterias and restaurants available for lunch. At night me and my friends would take the MRT to explore the city. Everything is very convenient.

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

Chemical Engineering Principles. Postwar Japanese Film. Economy of Modern China. Complementary Medicine and Health. Courses are rigorous and requires a lot of self-study outside of class, as classes meet less often than Berkeley courses.

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

Developing long-lasting bonds with friends over your shared experience of being away from home. Because everyone knows their time during study abroad semester is limited, they tend to open up and be their true self, which makes it easier for genuine and meaningful friendships to be formed. Trying to adapt to a new environment together makes people closer than they imagine, and I'm blessed to still be in contact with the friends I made while studying abroad almost two years ago.

What impact did studying abroad have on you personally?

It helped me mature as a person as I had to quickly learn to adapt to a new environment. The UCEAP program connected me with other exchangers who represented an even more diverse student body than UC Berkeley. This was a challenge and a great opportunity for personal growth as I learned to bond with people from very different backgrounds and cultures than me. Overall, it trained me to better adapt to change and gave me the confidence needed to face any unforeseen circumstances that may arise in the future.

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

Be mentally ready to adapt to a completely new environment. Do research about the host country and host institution, if you have questions don't hesitate to ask. These include specific questions such as which campus dorms to apply for, where is the best cheap food options, etc.