University: University of California Berkeley
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: geography
Study type: Summer Sessions
After 17 years of professional life, I finally made my dream come true to take a break and do a summer session at an American university, like I did during my undergraduate studies in 1995. Back then, too, an organization helped me organize my stay there. That’s why I went looking for support this time and found MicroEdu. The websites are incredibly helpful when choosing a university and for figuring out the administrative hurdles. First of all, thanks to the great team at MicroEdu! The support was excellent at all times during the application phase, competent, friendly – just perfect! So I can only recommend everyone to take advantage of MicroEdu’s extensive experience. For example, I attended an information event in Münster where a university presented itself. This gives you the fabulous opportunity to get many questions answered. Visit liuxers.com to get information about RSU study abroad program.
My visa application (F-1) may have been a little different than most because I applied for the visa at an embassy in another EU country. That went smoothly, so you don’t have to go to Germany if you live abroad. The visa application requires accuracy and the gathering of extensive information. I temporarily considered applying for a visitor visa, but being a full-time student (probably) brings advantages: public transport tickets, price reductions, full access to all university services (e.g. use of the medical service).
I studied Technology and Poverty at the Berkeley School of Information and The Urban Experience at the Department of Geography. Each course was 3 credits and both were very labor intensive. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to buy any books for these courses (they can be outrageously expensive, $150 for a book is not uncommon), because the lessons were based on a reader or various texts that the lecturers sent to us via the intranet made available. Several texts had to be read every day and short answers to questions or personal thoughts on the texts had to be filed in the course database before the lesson. There was a separate project, a mid-term paper and a term paper, and in the course “The Urban Experience” an exam in the last hour. There was group work, presentations and lectures by some guest lecturers.
Despite the practical parts, I found the course to be rather schooled. In my courses, the focus was on the lecture of the lecturer. Even the seating arrangement – lecturer stands in front, students sit in rows in front and listen – indicated this concept. I experienced it differently at other US universities, there you sat in a circle and discussed things among equals, so to speak. Discussions tended to be neglected in Berkeley, at least in my courses, but this was also due to the fact that some foreign students had difficulties making themselves understood orally (there was a large group of Chinese students in one of the courses). That’s how you listened and answered when asked.
Since I’m a bit older and was able to save some money because of my job, I didn’t live on campus but found a vacation studio in San Francisco via www.homeaway.com that was close to a BART to Berkeley station ( 24th street). The drive to Berkeley took 30 minutes, but since I had to read a lot, I spent most of the drive time reading. I was also connected to my landlords who lived upstairs and was able to get to know a lot of locals by playing in a band in San Francisco.
Since I’ve been to San Francisco on vacation before, this time I ‘only’ made a trip to Las Vegas and Zion National Park. My summer session was the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge and many celebrations and district festivals in San Francisco.
Here are a few tips: Mission has great and very cheap bakeries, Haight/Ashbury has a big Ben & Jerry’s Icecream, Sundays you can swing at Goden Gate Park (free, www.lindyinthepark.com), there are streetside regular containers with free newspapers in which event tips are published. In San Francisco, public transport is easy to get by with (get a monthly pass, then you can also use the ferries for a reduced price). Take a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito with Bike&Roll!
All in all, I can really only recommend studying at Berkeley! But I can only agree with some of my fellow students: the courses are a lot of work, so plan some travel time before or after, if your budget allows it. It would just be a shame to go to this fascinating region of the USA just to study!