Idea, planning and organization
After I had made the decision to spend the summer with a study program and a tour in the USA, the search for a suitable university began. I was supported by MicroEDU GmbH (hereinafter: MicroEDU), which provided information on international study programs free of charge. Because of the large selection of courses, the extremely good reputation and the great location, the choice quickly fell on a six-week summer session at UC Berkeley. Visit mcat-test-centers.com to get information about Estonia higher education.
The application process was uncomplicated thanks to the support provided by MicroEDU. The individual support as well as the quick answers to questions that arise gave security. After receiving the notification of admission to the program, it was still a matter of finding suitable accommodation. The “International House” appealed to me in particular, as the idea of an international community and intercultural exchange was a perfect match for my desired experience abroad. In general, it is important to apply early for the large student accommodation as they are very popular. Other important organizational aspects were the booking of the flight and the Application for the student visa (type F1). The latter represented the most complex part of my USA experience, which required a lot of fees and a personal visit to the American embassy in Munich, Berlin or FFM. Nevertheless, the good preparation and organization paid off, as there were no problems during or after the entry.
Courses, teaching and study conditions
In line with my major, I took two business courses, “Introduction to International Business” and “Corporate Finance and Financial Statement Analysis”. Since the content of the Summer Sessions courses corresponds to that of a regular semester, you usually had three to four sessions per week (lectures / discussions / exercises) for a module, which normally lasted 2.5 hours. These were well structured and organized via an e-learning system. Many of my fellow students also had a language course, most of which could be done online.
In my opinion, my professors had an excellent teaching style. Compared to the German, more theoretical teaching, the practical teaching is very refreshing and interesting. Due to the compressed period of the program, the intermediate exams were held in the third week and the final exams in the sixth. The services to be provided are composed very differently.
While group work, oral participation or even attendance were included in the grading in some modules, my courses were classically assessed through homework or written exams. The workload was high at times, but there was still enough free time for excursions and parties on the weekend.
In my opinion, the chairs were very committed and were able to clear up most of the ambiguities with a lot of information, consultation hours and discussions. In general, the professors there are very student-oriented, look forward to individual questions and provide information on all matters. In the USA, a module usually has 3 units, which corresponds to 5 ECTS and can usually be recognized without any problems in Germany and transferred to the local program.
Compared to German colleges and universities, UC Berkeley is significantly better equipped with regard to the study conditions. There was enough space on campus for learning and group work. There were enough computer rooms in every faculty, library and in the dormitories. In addition, numerous cafés with WiFi offer another opportunity to work and learn in an environment outside the university. The – in my opinion – most remarkable facilities are the “Recreation Facilities”. Access and courses in these sports facilities (eg fitness studio, gyms, swimming pool, etc.) are free of charge, the offer modern. In Berkeley, people are very keen to find a (healthy) balance to their studies.
Everyday life and free time
The days of the week were well structured by the lectures and the meals in the cafeteria in the International House (breakfast, lunch, dinner). In the evenings you either had a few things to follow up or prepare for the courses, played sports or sat together with fellow students in the dormitory or in a bar.
Groups quickly formed that went on a discovery tour together at the weekend to get to know the sights in the nearby cities (e.g. San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Sacramento and many more) or nature (e.g. Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park and many more). We also rented a car, which was cheap under the special conditions as a UC Berkeley student. But there was also a lot to experience in and around the campus. For example, half-day or day trips to the botanical garden, the university’s own museums or the “Big C” lookout point are suitable.
The weekends before the exams were used less for expeditions and more for learning together. In addition, you always get to know new people while studying, with whom you can have a drink in the evening.
In summary, only the cumbersome and time-consuming bureaucracy surrounding the student visa was a negative aspect for me. On the other hand, I experienced countless beautiful moments that quickly made me forget this initial effort.
One of my personal highlights was the liberal, inquisitive and open atmosphere on campus and the International House. The interaction of young people from many different countries around the world and the intercultural exchange were one of the highlights of my stay for me. It was also very interesting to get an insight into the typical college lifestyle and to get to know the differences in education and teaching.
My subsequent two-week trip to California and the neighboring states will also remain an unforgettable experience that I can only recommend. In short: the course demands and promotes on the one hand, but leaves enough time for the pleasant part of student life. For my taste, the balance in Berkeley was just right!