City of Berkeley
My first impression of the city of Berkeley was very disappointing. You can see a lot of homeless people on the streets. It is also not recommended to walk the streets alone at night. You should just know that when choosing Berkeley. Nonetheless, the summer in Berkeley was great. The campus is most beautiful. Lots of green spaces, cafes and beautiful buildings. The public connection through the BART to San Francisco is great – you are in the middle of SF in 30 minutes. The weekends can be used for trips to the coast, Sacramento, Lake Tahoe and many other beautiful places in California.
I can highly recommend the I-House. It is right on campus and most of the institutes can be easily reached on foot. I had a single room and I can only recommend it. The rooms are small and spartan. But it does the job. I was very pleasantly surprised by the communal bathroom facilities. The hygiene conditions were very clean.
The food was ok but nothing special. Breakfast was the best. Lunch and dinner were mediocre. Often there was the same thing. It was positive that there was always fresh fruit and vegetables. Food is generally a problematic issue in America. Really good food is very expensive. Not to be compared with Europe. But you just have to accept that if you live in America. Many international people in America have confirmed this to me.
According to anycountyprivateschools, University of California Berkeley offers great service for its international students. I chose two courses in Session D: Psychology of Personality and Organizational Behavior. The time required for two courses is very high. Midterm tests, final exams, term papers and group projects have to be done during the 6 weeks. During the week you are really busy studying and preparing. But the effort is worth it. The lectures are very interesting and the professors try very hard.
I had the summer of my life in Berkeley. It was exciting, exciting, funny, interesting, varied and actually way too short. I would have liked to have stayed a few more weeks. American university life is something very special. It costs a lot of money, but every euro pays off. The great Californian weather, the many nice international students, the interesting lectures, the American life! You should have experienced all of this once.
University of California Berkeley Extension
My name is Philipp and I studied two semesters through the Berkeley Global Access Program at University of California Berkeley in winter 2019 and summer 2020. I then applied through MicroEDU , which took very little effort.
Before I say anything about my program or the university: If you are thinking about a time abroad – do it! You learn an incredible amount (not only academically, but also about the world and above all about yourself)! Even if every project always has good and bad sides and often poses a great challenge, I can only advise everyone to accept this challenge and grow with it.
In my opinion, my plan was rather unusual, but it worked out extremely well for me. At the same time, I have to say that many others would probably not have liked my plan. Therefore, instead of going into individual categories as in the usual experience reports, I would like to explain my motivation for the project, point out good and bad points and draw a conclusion about who such a project could be of interest.
Background and motivation
I study mechatronics at Esslingen University and focus heavily on software development. For years I have dreamed of living in Silicon Valley and experiencing the mentality there up close. So I decided to spend my internship and a semester or two in the Bay Area, California. First-class education, a university with a good name, and the local proximity to Silicon Valley were important to me.
The year abroad also had the purpose of orienting myself a little further, whether I should do my master’s in computer science / software and whether a master’s in the USA would be interesting.
Positive aspects of my project
- University of California Berkeley offers world -class education with a tremendously good name (boasts itself as the “World’s Best Public University”).
- The Computer Science Department in particular is world-famous and has already produced a lot – so you benefit from the university’s reputation yourself afterwards.
- Berkeley benefits from the expanded Silicon Valley ecosystem. Virtually all IT graduates later end up at top tech companies such as Google and Apple.
- Berkeley is very liberal and cosmopolitan, which was very important to me. You often feel more like you are in Europe than in the USA – there is less of a typical US college culture there.
- The campus is very big and beautiful.
- The BGA program has allowed me to choose criss-cross courses as long as I meet a minimum number of credits.
- Very international and multicultural.
- The admission requirements for the program are very low compared to the reputation of the university (if I remember correctly, an average better than 2. 5 had a good chance). That’s because Berkeley is making very good money through the program.
- The application by MicroEDU was very simple and was only little effort.
Negative aspects of the project
- The BGA program is a so-called extension program: When choosing a course you have the lowest priority next to all other students. You can only attend a course if there is still a free place after all permanent students have chosen. This rarely or not at all occurs in popular courses, but it always depends on the semester. If you come to Berkeley for a semester and want to attend a certain course, the chances of actually getting in are very slim, especially for courses in the IT area, as these are in great demand. Are you flexible?, but you will surely find something suitable. The first three weeks of the semester are stressful because you have to attend a relatively large number of courses at the same time, as it takes about four weeks to find out which courses you actually get into.
- This can cause problems with the later transfer of credits at the home university. Due to very good academic performance, my professors were very accommodating at home and gave me credit for everything, even if the content did not necessarily match. If you come from a university and not from a university of applied sciences, this could be more of a problem, as universities are known to be not that flexible.
- You were informed about it in advance, but I took it lightly under the motto “it’ll work out somehow”. A high degree of flexibility and spontaneity is required when choosing a course.
- You don’t attend very much courses. With 3 to 4 courses per semester you are fully occupied (more than in Germany with 6 courses). So if you want to get a lot of credit, it could still be difficult.
- The project was very costly. The tuition fees depend on how many courses you attend, but realistically you can expect around 14,000 to 17,000 euros per semester in tuition fees. Then another 1000 to 2500 euros rent are added per month. The International House is very popular, but you can easily pay 2,300 euros in rent there. I lived in a shared apartment for 10 minutes on foot and paid US $ 1100 per month for my room.
- You can therefore expect around 25,000 to 30,000 euros per semester.
- Fortunately, I had an annual scholarship from the DAAD, which took over a total of 30,000 euros – but that only covered a good half.
- In addition, it was only an exception for me to receive the scholarship, because normally the DAAD does not support such extension programs, as it is known that there are often problems with the choice of courses. The exception could be granted because my dean wrote a letter in which he stated that all of my achievements from Berkeley will be recognized and that the project will not prolong my studies.
- Without a scholarship, I would not have been able to afford the project without a loan – and it would not have been worth it to me.
- High workload: If you want first-class education and a high reputation, you have to work hard. Accordingly, many courses, especially in the IT area, are associated with an immense amount of work. That was fine with me. But if you want to push a quiet ball, Berkeley is definitely not the right place.
- Virtually no support during implementation. There was a two-hour information event at the beginning, but after that you were on your own. As a result, I found the first few weeks very stressful, until all my courses were finally fixed and I could concentrate on the essentials.
The project was a great success for me, because it allowed me to attend very interesting computer science lectures in Berkeley and gain valuable knowledge that would otherwise have been denied to me in my bachelor’s degree.
Can I recommend my project to everyone? Clear no. Without a scholarship or without the flexibility in choosing a course from my home university or without a high level of willingness to work on my part, it would definitely not have been successful.
Who can I recommend a similar project to?
- Someone who either gets a scholarship or is willing to invest 50,000 to 60,000 euros for a year.
- Someone who later knows how to use this investment through the resulting (professional) opportunities.
- Someone who has a wide range of courses to choose from and who has the support of their home university with regard to course credit.
- Someone who wants to do a lot in the semester abroad instead of just going out in the evening and partying.
- Someone who doesn’t care about the typical US college climate with frat parties, football and beer pong – there is also a small scale in Berkeley, but it is much more common at other universities.
In general, I noticed in Berkeley that there is a kind of love-hate relationship with Berkeley, especially in the STEM area: Many people are hard to speak after graduation because the lectures are tough and student life there is generally very demanding. In return you get a very good education and a university on your résumé, with which all doors are open to you afterwards.
Addition regarding Corona
During my second semester (summer semester 2020) the coronavirus came in February / March. The university accepted this extremely well, at least in the computer science faculty, and switched all teaching operations to the online medium within around a week. I finished the semester there in full, but many other international students left early.