Berkeley Global—Experiencing Transformative Innovation Firsthand

BHGAP Global Ambassador, Gustav Nørrelund shares his experience as a Danish student at UC Berkeley and the Haas School of Business

My name is Gustav and I am 23 years old. I have been studying international business and politics at Copenhagen Business School for the last two years. In the spring, I decided to complement my education at home with a semester with Berkeley Global and in the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program (BHGAP).

I had the choice of either going to one of the Ivy League universities or UC Berkeley (dubbed Public Ivy) and opted for the latter due to the emphasis on innovation and the proximity to Silicon Valley. I am glad I made this decision as I have gotten a detailed look into the startup and venture capital space, and formed new connections for life. Going from Denmark to the United States, I have learned that there is a unique appetite for risk in the Bay Area. The difference between Europe and the Bay Area when it comes to access to capital for new ventures is like night and day. People here are encouraged to and ready to foster startups—the majority of which fail, but occasionally turn into billion-dollar companies.

UC Berkeley has an impressive ecosystem that includes the accelerator SkyDeck and access to countless resources on and off-campus. These prove essential for the bridge between the academic institutions and new, innovative companies. This relationship is often the catalysat for startups before you see them in the news as the shiny new stars of Silicon Valley. BHGAP has made it possible to gain access and learn from these companies in a way I could never imagine before coming here. The perspectives we get from founders and the core people at some of the most successful companies become revelations in terms of what works—and what does not—when starting a business in the twenty-first century. Haas has taught us how to have an impact on the world around us and challenge the status quo—the basis for transformative innovation.

Being back in the classroom following the pandemic has been an experience. My program has facilitated friendships with brilliant students from all over the world. During class discussions, people are insightful and willing to contribute to the conversation, which has a great impact on the overall learning experience. I am learning from UC Berkeley professors who are world-class. Just recently, Professor David Card won a Nobel Prize in economics—my case in point of the learning environment and the ambitious people here in Berkeley. As international students, we can take classes beyond our home department. Beyond the business and economics courses, I am also taking a course in computer science, which provides new perspectives on applying knowledge of coding in practical contexts.

Despite studying and attending classes, which take up many hours per week​​, my friends and I still find time to have fun and go on trips. California has more than enough for a lifetime of exploration. We are never more than a couple of hours by car from skiing or surfing. We are a close-knit group of friends that have been on trips to Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe and Yosemite. Traveling from Berkeley to San Francisco is just a short 25-minute car ride. It is also super easy to travel to other states in the U.S.; so far I have been to Chicago, Illinois, and Las Vegas, Nevada. We are now planning to visit Hawaii for island hopping!

Moving forward, I am certain that I will go back to Denmark richer in experiences that will prove useful in my further advancement in education and career afterward. If you are considering applying to Berkeley Global, I highly recommend it—the Bay Area is an exciting place to be and the people here make the journey exhilarating.