University: University of California Berkeley
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: Informatics, mechanical engineering
Study type: Summer Sessions
The stay at UC Berkeley was a unique time for me, which I will look back on fondly for years to come. The combination of studies, experience abroad and free time was perfect. I also made many new friends from all over the world. First things first: I lived in the International House on campus and took three courses. These were Introduction to Product Development (Mechanical Engineering, Session B, 10 weeks), User Interface Design & Development (Computer Science, Session C, 8 weeks) and Beginning Piano Class for Non-Music Majors (Music, Session B, 10 weeks). Visit liuxers.com to get information about KPU study abroad program.
The University of California Berkeley, usually simply called Cal, has a very good international reputation – and that as a state university! Accordingly, there are also many very good students, employees and lecturers at the university. The equipment is of course also good. In my opinion, the biggest difference to studying in Germany is the grading system. While in Germany the grade usually depends solely on the (final) exam at the end of the semester, there are some graded assignments or graded midterms on the courses in Berkeley (as is common in the USA). This leads to a higher effort during the semester, but the final grade does not only depend on one exam. The degree of difficulty is of course always to be seen individually. Personally, I didn’t find it any harder than at my home university (TUM).
The courses I chose were more project-oriented (rather than foundation courses). What surprised me positively: In my courses, the vast majority consisted of regular students from UC Berkeley. The lecturers did a very good job.
Especially the lecturer of ” User Interface Design & Development ” stood out particularly positively. He structured the course well and, among other things, took a lot of time to answer questions outside of the lectures. The course itself was a mixture of computer science and design. This means that in projects lasting 1-2 weeks we went through a complete process of knowledge building on the topic (through research, interviews, etc.) through sketches to the finished web application and even concept videos. The course naturally takes up a lot of time – but I really enjoyed it. As an interdisciplinary mechanical engineer I already had some programming experience. However, my biggest fear was that this would not be enough for this computer science course. However, this fear had already disappeared in the second week after the submission of my project. In addition, the design part also contributes to successfully passing the course even as a non-computer scientist.
The “ Introduction to Product Development ” course dealt with the methods of Design Thinking / Human Centered Design. The teams are formed in the first week and work together until the end of the semester. The project topics are suggested by the participants of the course and each team can work on its own topic. Some of the lectures also had interesting guest speakers. In addition to the team tasks, there were many individual assignments, which always contributed to the project. This ensures that all team members contribute to the project.
The music course (“ Beginning Piano Class for Non-Music Majors ”) was a welcome change for me. The main reason was that I was missing a unit for full-time enrollment in addition to the other two courses. As these are for the F1 visanecessary, I chose a course with one unit. This was the only one that fit. In hindsight, I’m glad I chose him. Although I already have a few years of experience playing the piano, the course offered a good combination of less effort and things that I had refreshed or even learned. So the course only required a small amount of additional time (only 1.5 hours of lessons per week, the assignments were then correspondingly few). The English terms alone, but also the wide range of topics and the way the lecturer teaches the students the piano, represented a good added value.
As mentioned at the beginning, there are fewer students on campus in the summer. As a result, the range of courses and events as well as the opening times of some facilities and cafés are somewhat limited. For me, however, this was not a problem. In fact, I found it quite pleasant that the university was not overcrowded. This made it possible to make very good use of all available offers. For example, it’s easier to find an open tennis court, teachers can take more time, and overall campus is more enjoyable. In addition, Cal Rec Sports still offered some events (e.g. I can recommend the Sunset Paddle) and in the Greek Theater there were well-known artists every now and then(I was at a Jack Johnson concert, for example). Regarding this section, it should also be said that at the beginning of my stay there were fewer students, since the majority of courses are offered in sessions C, D and E.
Now a short section to the accommodation. I applied straight away for a room at International House when the application phase started. I can only recommend the International House. In fact, I would say that it was a significant part of what made my time at UC Berkeley so enjoyable. This is where I made most of my new friends. Among them were also regular students and above all people from all over the world. For me it was really an enrichment to experience this diversity every day. It just shows that people can live peacefully together even if they come from different cultures. Apart from that, the International House is also very safe, it offers an excellent dining hall, library, even small music rooms (with pianos, guitars etc.). In addition, some interesting events are offered, such as tours to Alcatraz (which would have to be booked much earlier in other ways) or tickets for baseball games and musicals.
There is not much to write about this. The Bay Area and California as a whole offer a great deal of opportunity. A tip might be not to underestimate the time you should take to take advantage of all of this. For example, after the summer session, I stayed in California for a week longer for a little road trip. Otherwise, I mainly used the weekends for excursions. However, the costs should not be underestimated either. Not only the university and the accommodation, but also the daily life(Food, excursions etc.) are expensive in California. The best thing to do is to ask regular students for tips on this. A very helpful one (which unfortunately came too late for me): Some car rental companies in Berkeley (Herz and Enterprise as far as I know, but possibly others as well) waive the fee for UC Berkeley students, which is an additional fee for under 25 year olds.
All in all, as already mentioned, my stay in the USA was a unique experience. I can recommend it to everybody. In particular, the duration of 10 weeks (plus a week on the road trip afterwards) formed a good time frame. Special thanks also go to MicroEdu, who were able to help me with any question and, for example, asked me how I liked it during my stay.