Chinese students Jiageng Chen (upper-left) and Sijie Yang (upper-right) are currently immersed in their Fall 2018 semester study-abroad experience at the College of Environmental Design’s Global Access Program. The two are both architecture students—Jiageng at Harbin Institute of Technology (Heilongjiang Sheng, China) as a senior; Sijie at Chongqing University (China) as a junior—and are deepening their knowledge in preparation for graduate school.
I recently had the pleasure to sit down with Jiageng and Sijie on a beautiful fall day in one of CED’s courtyards to learn more about their current experience with us at Berkeley.
I can experience a completely different learning environment and a different style of campus life.—Sijie Yang
What brought you to this program?
Jiageng: The CED program has attractiveness for us as we’re majoring in architecture and other programs don’t have the Fundamental Design Studio course. Only the CED program allows us to take the studio course with a specific instructor, Tommy Haddock. Also, the Berkeley name—it’s a great school!
Sijie: Berkeley attracts me a lot because there are so many types of students coming here to study. I can have conversations with them and feel great to be an exchange student here, and experience a completely different learning environment and a different style of campus life.
What has your experience been like thus far?
Jiageng: It’s a different culture and learning style here. The school is a lot more open and we can choose a lot of different classes. Also, we can have classes with graduate students. So we have a large community of students.
Sijie: I think it’s quite special here. We can choose some classes and prepare for graduate school. I think it’s great because at my home university, my classes are more theoretical. Here, we get to know how graduate students study before I apply to graduate school. We can see for ourselves what we need to do for the future, how to study better.
You’re enjoying the courses.
Jiageng: Professor is great because he drives us in different directions based on our interests. He encourages us to explore our interests. It’s different from China, because in China we have homework that our professor wants us to do, but here it’s a bit more free based on our interests.
Sijie: There are two courses for the graduate students that are great because they’re smaller classes—maybe 10 or 20 students who discuss with each other. We have a lot of time to discuss with the professors face-to-face. The discussions are a really important; I never had them in my home university. I think it’s great!
Here, there’s a lot more diversity.—Jiageng Chen
What are your top things to do in Berkeley or the San Francisco Bay Area?
- Be a tourist in San Francisco—see the Golden Gate Bridge or Golden Gate Park.
- Be a part of the Berkeley community: understand the different cultures. Empower yourself to be part of the community. It’s my first time in America and it can be hard to understand native speakers, but be open and talk with people to learn from them.
- Check out the libraries; they’re great—both the main library and the one at CED. The books here are great; they’re from different writers and on different subjects.
- Be prepared to increase your cooking skills. The cafeteria here just has American food, so you may need to cook for yourself a couple of times.
- Access to Amazon Prime! [laughs]
Sijie: Sometimes I’m surprised that there are a lot of things we can do here.
- As much as you can, make use of the digital fabrication lab, which has six laser-cut machines, 10 3D printers, and a costly and rare machine named ZONE, which exists in only four U.S. universities. It’s quite valuable to use it. You need to pay a lot to use these things at our home university.
- Check out the online library: You can search for the books that you want or need from the professor.
- There are a lot of lecturers. There are professors from other universities who will each give a big lecture; it’s an important and must-do thing to attend these and get a lot of information.
- Comparing Faculty of Architecture and Urban Planning at Chongqing University with CED in hardware facilities, the most significant advantage of CED is the thorough student-account system with which you can conveniently use your account to log in and use all of the printers, public computers and professional machines like laser-cut machines.
Jiageng: It’s important to get a lot of different opinions from different people. In China, you can’t hear so many different voices from different areas. Here, there’s a lot more diversity.
What are your plans after you graduate?
Jiageng: The architecture major in China is five years, so I have another year-and-a-half before I graduate. After graduation, I want to apply to graduate school in America; Berkeley is one of my top choices. It’s great here, so I think I want to apply here to CED.
Sijie: I plan on going into a master’s program. You need to have more research and experience if you want to get a good job.