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Gigi Changcharoenkij

Gigi Changcharoenkij

Major: Psychology, Media Studies

"Study abroad gave me the chance to experience what it would be like to live in a different place and attend a different university. Other than home (Thailand) and the US, I have never lived in another country for that long. As mentioned, I loved being able to gain these cultural experiences, meet people from across the world, and to get to feel like this place was my home, at least for a little bit."

 

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

I'm an international student, so I am technically already abroad at Berkeley. I have always loved visiting other countries and experiencing the different cultures, which is part of the reason why I decided to come to Berkeley in the first place. I looked into study abroad programs because I wanted to further explore other places (such as countries whose universities I considered as a high school senior but didn't get to go to) and be able to experience other academic environments.

What was the most interesting cultural experience you had abroad?

I love Australian slang - they are so fun, and I always get excited when I hear people use one I've learned about. It's just so interesting to me how English speakers can be speaking the same language but using it so differently. Even the simplest ones are fun: arvo (afternoon), choccy biccy (chocolate biscuit), and accadacca (AC/DC, the band)

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

My biggest concern was trying to limit my spending. Everything was so exciting, so naturally, I wanted to buy or try everything (mostly food). It felt like a vacation, so I was inclined to be self-indulgent. It also feels different when spending Australian currency - from both USD and THB. I already packed too many things pre-arrival, and I didn't have enough space in my luggage for the trip back home. I gifted all my household goods to my Aussie friends, and I had to donate some of my belongings.

Describe a typical day for you abroad.
  • -> Pre-lockdown: Take the tram to campus, go to class, grab food or cook. Depending on the day of the week, I might start at 9am or 3pm.
  • -> During lockdown: Wake up for Zoom discussion sections and labs, watch recorded lectures (no live lectures), cook and eat, and play Animal Crossing.
What coursework did you take while abroad? How did courses abroad compare with Berkeley classes?

I took two Psychology classes for my major, a Consumer Behavior class that can be applied to my Media Studies major, and a lower division class that was a pre/co-requisite for it. There are typically very few assignments for each class, so each one is worth 40-60% of the grade. It was pretty nerve-racking because you don't really know what grade you're going to get until after you take the final exam. As soon as I arrived in Melbourne, the advisors also warned us that Psychology classes in Australia tend to be more difficult than those in the US, which turned out to be true, in my opinion. However, I feel like I got more feedback from Australian instructors, as well as a lot of helpful materials, such as examples from previous students and sample templates.

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

The most memorable was definitely Great Ocean Road trip. It was amazing just driving along the ocean - the landscapes are beautiful. We stopped along the road to visit landmarks, look at Koalas, and hike. Even as a not super outdoorsy person, I loved it!

What impact did studying abroad have on you personally?

I love Australia and definitely want to go back some day. Study abroad gave me the chance to experience what it would be like to live in a different place and attend a different university. Other than home (Thailand) and the US, I have never lived in another country for that long. As mentioned, I loved being able to gain these cultural experiences, meet people from across the world, and to get to feel like this place was my home, at least for a little bit. I also really appreciated the change of pace from Berkeley, which can sometimes be stressful.

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

Pack light! I definitely brought way too much stuff that I never even used. The weather in Melbourne is very unpredictable, but when it's hot, it's hot; when it's cold, it's cold. Bring clothes for all seasons because you never know what the weather will be like on any given day. There are LOTS of places to see/visit in and around Melbourne, so plan well to be able to fit all the activities in one semester!

How has study abroad influenced your future career path? Or, how do you see the skills you gained while abroad translating into the field you want to go into?

Study abroad has given me further perspective on where I could go, especially for graduate school if I decide to. It has made me even more eager to explore other cities/countries and live in many different places. I'm now more interested in traveling for work and more likely to consider relocating for work. It gave me a world-wide view that I believe would be useful in any career path.