Why do the best students study abroad?
Source: Berkeley International Study Program

“It’s not a year in your life, it’s a life in a year.” Sigrid Setsaas, 2018-19 BISP student

University is a pivotal time in our lives. It’s when we, as students and individuals, grow and develop. It boils down to what’s known as the “challenge and support” concept, which refers to the optimal conditions of each element for one to maximise growth during this period.

Challenge, like facing complexity, ambiguity, diversity and other stressful events, should be at an adequate level so students learn new ways to cope. Same goes with support – which, at ideal levels, provides familiarity, care and empathy for students to tackle other challenges in life.

Smart students know this and use it to their advantage. And one of the ways they capitalise on this is to study abroad.

Crossing national borders in pursuit of international educational opportunities has been proven, time and again, for its host of benefits. More than just about academic study, this is an experience that includes cultural interaction, foreign language practice and more in the host country. Studying and integrating into a different culture prepares students for their transition into the global world. Adaptable and deeply intercultural, students will be better prepared for entrance to an ever-evolving global environment.

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) recognises the immense value of this. Its Berkeley International Study Program is a unique program, providing study abroad opportunities for visiting international students to come to UC Berkeley for one or two semesters.

Source: Berkeley International Study Program

Study International spoke to five talented individuals about their reasons for jumping on this chance to study at this elite university and the perks they’ve gotten from it. Here’s what they had to say:

World-class courses

Times Higher Education(THE) —one of the most respected sources in global college rankings – rated UC Berkeley as one of the ‘Elite Six’ global university brands. Add its ranking as the world’s #1 public university by US News and World Report 2018 and it’s no surprise that world-class courses, research and teachers defined Synne Maasvaer Halle’s UC Berkeley experience.

Classes are not only much bigger with “more engaged” professors here, according to the student from Norway. She also shares that “the courses have certainly given me different perspectives on the world, in which I didn’t have prior to moving to Berkeley.

“My favourite course is Social Psychology because it really gets me thinking “out of the box” and has resulted in me experiencing the world differently, with a wider understanding. I also like the professor because he presents the course material in a very interesting way,” adds Synne.

Widen perspective of the world

In an increasingly complex world, maintaining and promoting openness and diversity is a trait UC Berkeley remains dedicated to. Almost one-quarter of its graduate student cohort comes from abroad, so studying here means exposure to myriad of people. The US university ensures this by keeping an active schedule of events for the student body, as Yasmin Graeml discovered.

For the Brazilian journalism student, the “university spirit” here is more pronounced than back home. She said: “I like the fact that the university is always promoting events and students actually engage on them! It is a great way of making friends and learning more about the place we are at.”

Under BISP’s Cultural Peer Mentor Program, current UC students also plan fun activities throughout the bay area, as well as guide, support and connect BISP students towards important campus and community resources and student groups, of which there are over 1,000 available on campus.

Source: Berkeley International Study Program

Lifelong connections

Rachelle Angeli Maranon from the Philippines agrees. The Post-Baccalaureate student has gotten to know a lot of students from different backgrounds, diversifying her friends list significantly since she’s been at UC Berkeley.

Diversity here takes many forms. With a goal to “[c]reate a critical mass of talented students […] that will fully represent California’s excellence and diversity” the university ensures there is balance in terms of gender, level and underrepresented groups.

Maranon said: “It is super diverse but it still feels like my home university since it is also located in a college town”. Her advice to those interested in the BISP program: “Just go for it – it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made. It’s going to be awesome definitely!”

Experiencing Brilliance in the Bay Area

The Bay Area is an  iconic region, constantly reinventing itself and presenting endless offerings, from sports to opera and the entrepreneurism of Silicon Valley. These are magnetic draws for the best and brightest to come and make their mark, with impact extending into UC Berkeley’s campus grounds as well.

Source: Berkeley International Study Program

The innovative spirit is pronounced here. Hege Bellika Hansen, who studies political science, has many reasons to love her Innovation and Entrepreneurship course. From the instructor (for “her enthusiasm and honesty in class”) to the cutting-edge energy of the Bay Area, this is where Hansen said she grew and learned a lot.

That’s not all. “I’ve just in general fallen in love with Berkeley, the Bay Area and California because of all the opportunities here. The attitude here is also more straight forward, especially in politics. And of course, I love all the great food and history here,” she says.

Unique US campus culture

Although educational institutes around the world call themselves colleges or universities, campus cultures differ from one to another. The US campus culture is distinct with its own unique offerings, of which Berkeley exudes some of its most sterling qualities.

With the BISP, students get the unrivalled ‘Berkeley Experience’. From routine campus experiences such as attending class or visiting a library, to the more adventurous opportunities like yoga teacher training, Sigrid Setsaas has found that her self-discovery this semester has been more than she ever imagined it could be. As she explains, “It’s not a year in your life, it’s a life in a year.”

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