"I decided to participate in the Global Internship Program my freshman summer because it seemed like a great time to travel and study abroad without conflicting with recruiting for internships."
Studying abroad has always been one of the top things on my bucket list for college, so I jumped at the chance to study abroad as soon as I knew I could accommodate for it in my academic and professional plans. I decided to participate in the Global Internship Program my freshman summer because it seemed like a great time to travel and study abroad without conflicting with recruiting for internships. I chose Hong Kong because Cantonese is my first language and I wanted to explore the possibility of pursuing a career in international business in Asia post grad. Because I really enjoyed my experience in Hong Kong, I decided to study abroad again through UCEAP the spring of my junior year. UCEAP seemed like it’d be a vastly different experience from the Global Internship Program since being a full time student instead of a full time intern gave me a lot more free time to explore the city and travel. I chose London because I had never been to Europe and because London is very English-friendly, easy to navigate, and there are lots to do just within London itself.
One of the most interesting cultural experiences I had was visiting Oxford University on a day trip with other international students. I got to learn about the vast and fascinating history of the university and how vastly different the UK higher education system is. On our guided walking tour, the tour guide told us about everything that once happened on the very streets we were walking on, from the religious persecution of Protestants on Broad Street to the pub C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien used to frequent together. My friends and I also got to go to the oldest pub in Oxford, which was established in 1242. It was amazing to know we were surrounded by so much history and to see how history has shaped the fabric of the city.
In the winter months, London was always cold and dreary. It felt a bit isolating at times especially because everyone lived in singles and people don’t really make friends in class. However, I was able to get close to other international students from the US, Australia, and Canada during my host university’s events for study abroad students, which helped me develop some close friendships.
I had classes 4 days a week, but they usually didn’t start until 11am. Because my dorm was right across Waterloo Bridge from the King’s College Strand Campus, I would walk to class everyday. The 15 minute walk across the bridge was always one of the most enjoyable parts of my day. I got to see boats passing in the Thames and the big double decker red buses shuffle passengers back and forth. After 3-4 hours of class depending on the day of the week, I’ll usually do some work in the school cafe and get lunch with a friend nearby. Sometimes we’d walk to Covent Garden to eat, shop, or just look around. Everything was in such close proximity that we could walk to Trafalgar Square, Chinatown, or some nearby museum within an hour. We’d spend our day exploring the city until it gets dark, then go to a pub or go back to our flats and cook dinner. On the weekends, I’d either explore a little more around London or go on a day trip with friends. I went to the Shoreditch area a lot for the Spitafields Market, Brick Lane Market, and Columbia Flower Market. Regardless, we would always end the day by going to a quaint English pub for some fish and chips and wine.
I took 16 units while abroad: 3 upperdiv elective courses for my business major and 1 classics course for breadth. I personally found the classes to be much more manageable than Berkeley classes. Professors did not have very strict attendance requirements and lectures videos/slides were always available online afterwards, which lowered the stress of missing classes. I didn’t have many homework assignments throughout the semester and only had 1 midterm for most of my classes. Exams were much more writing and theory based than Berkeley’s math-centric exams, which I actually appreciated. All in all, I would just study really hard the week before a major deadline, and things ended working out just fine. I found that grading was also very fair compared to Berkeley classes. Exams were not graded on curves so there’s only the pressure to outperform yourself. Professors tell you before what topics are in scope and generally didn’t ask any curve ball questions.
It’s really hard to pick the most memorable aspect of my time abroad because it was all incredibly meaningful to me. Being able to live and breath a new city, one with so much history and such amazing architecture, was really meaningful for me. Just from walking around the street, it was breathtaking to see the old and new blend together across London’s 2000 years of history. I’ve been told that London can feel like a transient city because most people who live there know they’re not going to live there forever. That was part of the appeal for me, the knowledge that I wouldn’t be there forever, but for the time that I am, I got to live in a city that was once (or maybe still is) the center of western civilization.
Studying abroad rejuvenated my interest in exploring the world. Throughout my time in undergrad, I was sometimes sucked into the monotony and routine of chasing after the next good grade, next project, or next internship. Studying abroad reminded me that there’s a whole world outside of my Berkeley bubble to explore. It was nice to take some time off from the often stressful environment of Berkeley and spend some time doing things just because I wanted to do them and not because I felt like I needed to. Getting to travel around Europe (sometimes by myself) also renewed my desire to be independent and to live as an expat somewhere in the future.
A thousand times yes! I think that the value of studying abroad goes beyond what you learn in the textbook, it's more about taking a leap of faith and trying something new. I think there’s a lot of value in living somewhere unfamiliar on your own when you’re young. Being cut off from my normal support system and having to learn to navigate a new city on my own while juggling finances and having so much free time really taught me independence and personal responsibility. I would highly recommend London because of how familiar yet simultaneously foreign it is as an English-speaking country. Also, the public transportation system in London can’t be beat!
As an immigrant from China, I’ve long considered moving back to Asia for work someday. After studying abroad, I’ve realized that I would love to spend my 20s working in different countries. Whether it is in China, the UK, or Hong Kong, I would love to live and work somewhere else for a few years.