Editor's note: Anna-Julia Storch is a German student at Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich where she studies business administration as well as technology management at the university's Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM). She is also a graduate of the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program, which brings international students to Berkeley to study entrepreneurship. Her post below originally appeared on her personal blog. It has been edited for clarity and length.
Not too long ago, my semester abroad at UC Berkeley and the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program came to an end and I still cannot quite believe it. Everything went by so fast.
Instead of writing a long post about an experience that cannot really be fully described in words, here are my "key findings":
The number one thing I learned at Berkeley
Even though there are hundreds of things that I could mention now, one thing that I really didn’t expect to learn was how to develop a different mindset towards the world and my life.
In one of my classes called "Opportunity Recognition," we talked a lot about big problems in the world, including climate change and inequalities. Even though many of us talk about this on a regular basis, it was definitely different to discuss it in class. My professor said—and I will never forget this:
"If you worry about small problems, you are a small person. If you want to change the world you need to think about the big problems."
Small problems according to him are little things we all worry about, like a fight with a neighbor. Big problems, in contrast, are things that affect many people or even animals.
This discussion and the overall mindset of this professor really changed the way I think about my life and what I want to do in the future. It became even more important to me to work for a company, or found my own company that has a social mission and contributes to a better future for all of us.
This discussion and the overall mindset of this professor really changed the way I think about my life and what I want to do in the future.
My favorite thing about Berkeley
Again, there are many things that I really like about Berkeley, but my favorite thing is definitely the quality, motivation and engagement of the professors and students. I always tell my friends in Germany, "It’s cool to be a nerd here" and I’m sure many would agree with that. There is never an empty library at any time during the day (and night) and everybody is willing to help. You can get answers to your questions within minutes, even directly from your professors on a Sunday afternoon. This would never be possible at my home university in Munich.
What’s more, the students are extremely motivated and clever. They don’t just study for the exam and then forget everything like many universities in Europe. They really want to learn and apply their knowledge. This different mindset is really motivating and inspiring.
What’s more, the students are extremely motivated and clever. They don’t just study for the exam and then forget everything like many universities in Europe. They really want to learn and apply their knowledge.
What I would have done differently
That’s a hard one! I think overall I wouldn’t have done much differently, except from my housing situation. I lived with other German students in a flat about 25 minutes walking distance from campus. Even though it was a nice area and much, much cheaper than what others paid, it was not only quite far from campus, but also the fact that I lived with Germans didn’t make my experience as “American” as it could have been.
Instead, I would have loved to live in the International House, which is right next to campus, and includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and you can live with people from all over the world. I wouldn’t really live with many Americans, but it’s definitely a very cool experience. In my case, I couldn’t apply for the International House since I decided to study in Berkeley only a few weeks before the program started. I quickly had to find a flat with people that I knew and we found the easiest and cheapest option. It wasn't a bad decision in the end.
My advice to others thinking about BHGAP
1) Don’t think "It’s too late" or "It’s too expensive"!
There are ALWAYS ways to study in Berkeley (or the U.S.A. in general). The BHGAP program has an application deadline in July (the program starts in August of the same year), so you can apply pretty late and still get a spot!
They also have scholarships available (US $5,000). In addition, there are many scholarships within Germany or in other countries that many of my classmates received. This way, the whole experience was much more affordable. In any case, I believe it’s worth the money spent and nobody can take away this experience!
2) Look for housing early!
Housing is really hard to find so try to look for it as early as possible. Anything below $1,000 U.S. dollars a month, including utilities, is quite cheap.
As I said, I would recommend living in the International House. Others that I knew lived in a fraternity (boys only) but this is recommended only if you really want to experience the American college life and are into drinking. I would not recommend living alone, or with people who speak the same language as you do in your home country.
3) Go on some adventures and challenge yourself!
Once you are in Berkeley, I would recommend joining some clubs that interest you or that do something that you are not good at (yet). I, for example, joined ballroom dancing and will do figure skating next semester, both things that I always wanted to do but that I never tried.
I also bought a van and built a bed inside it and traveled around in it while surfing. This is definitely recommended. You can also rent a van like this for about U.S. $80 a day which could be cheaper and easier. They are called Escape Campervans. Definitely highly recommended! Another company that offers something similar is called Jucy. Their cars are usually a bit smaller and cheaper.
4) Just Do It!
I cannot emphasize this enough. You can only grow if you challenge yourself!
I spoke to so many people about my experience. Everybody tells me: "I want to do the same thing, it’s so cool! …" But when I ask why they don’t go ahead and do it, I usually get answers like "I have a flat (apartment) here… or a boyfriend… or my family…" and so on…
I also have friends, family, a flat, a car, opportunities to go skiing and so on in Germany, but I still study abroad, because I know I can come back in just about 4 months. It’s nothing. Time flies and it is really no problem to leave home for a few months and go out of your comfort zone. You can always come back, you can even Skype with your friends everyday. But I’m sure you don’t even need to do that because you will easily make new friends within a few days and will have a lot of fun. Time passes so fast that you will wish you could stay longer!
During my time at UC Berkeley, I searched for an internship in the Bay Area, preferably at a technology start-up. I had a couple of interviews and visited many companies and I finally decided on Urban Miles—a start-up in the mobility industry. I will be working as a product management intern in their San Francisco office until the end of April 2019.
Aside from that, I am going to try to take another data science course at UC Berkeley.
After my internship is over, I am going to return to Germany and continue my studies at the LMU and CDTM in Munich. Nevertheless, I am sure I will return to the U.S. again very soon.
Special thanks to Anna-Julia Storch for sharing her BHGAP experience with us. Read more blog posts from Anna-Julia here.
The Berkeley Haas Global Access Program brings international students to UC Berkeley to study business and entrepreneurship. It also offers plenty to do and see outside of class. Want to learn more? Visit our website.