Editor's note: Anna-Julia Storch is a German student at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) where she studies business administration as well as technology management at the university's Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM). She is a graduate of the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program, which brings international students to Berkeley to study entrepreneurship. This post originally appeared on her personal blog. It has been edited for clarity and length.
Are courses at Berkeley different from the ones in Germany?
Many of my friends always ask me: What is it like studying at Berkeley? Is it really that hard? Do you get what you paid for?
As many of my professors would answer that question: It depends.
First of all, yes. The classes here at Berkeley (in the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program) and at the other university I attended in the U.S. (Castleton University) are in most parts quite different from classes in Germany, or at least from classes at my university: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU).
One of the things I like the most about the classes here is that they are much (!) more interactive and therefore, the learning value is much higher as well.
Interactive means it's not just that people raise their hands and contribute or ask questions, but go above and beyond.
Usually, there is some kind of team practice within each class, so you get to discuss solutions with a friend. I always go out of a class and am able to say, I learned something new and I am not going to forget that within the next few days (this is usually what happens in Germany).
Additionally, classes here in the U.S. are generally smaller, with some exceptions of course. While at LMU, business classes consist of a few hundred people; here most of the classes that I attend have only about 15 to 30 people, maximum, in one room. This allows a much more personal atmosphere.
Is it really that hard?
When it comes to classes being "hard," I wouldn't necessarily say that classes at Berkeley are harder in general.
But what I can say is that it is much more work.
We have a lot of homework every week, e.g. reading books, doing projects or discussing case studies. Most of the work is graded, so there is a constant pressure. On the one hand, I really think this is good, because it forces you to review the content of the lecture and you actually learn something for a long term (in Germany you just study 3 weeks before the exam and that might be it). Nevertheless it can be quite demanding and I, like many other students in BHGAP, spend a lot of weekends studying.
I am also taking a computer science class as an elective course (apart from my business studies) which I really like. The teaching staff is awesome and really cares about their students' success so that you get help literally at any time a day (including weekends!). Nevertheless, this is the most demanding class I have taken so far. But this might also lie in the nature of computer science.
Do you get what you pay for?
To answer the last question: "Do you get what you pay for?" I would say yes!
Of course, it's extremely expensive going to Berkeley compared to what you pay—or don't pay—in Germany. Nevertheless, the classes are much better and the learning value is higher. You get a great network here with highly motivated students, an enormous offer of different sports and academic clubs and support with everything you need.
At least for me, I couldn't be happier right now that I made the decision to come to Berkeley and I can recommend everyone doing the same. And by the way, there are many scholarships out there, including one offered directly through BHGAP so you can make your stay affordable!
Overall, I wouldn't say that the education in Germany is bad. In fact, there are some things that Germany is definitely better at than top universities in the U.S. (e.g., more theoretically-focused study). Nevertheless, the overall university experience in the U.S., or at least at UC Berkeley, is more enjoyable with a higher learning value.
Above you can find a photo of a design thinking course I am taking. It's a very interactive and fun class!
Special thanks to Anna-Julia Storch for sharing her BHGAP experience with us. Be sure to check out more BHGAP blog posts from Anna-Julia and others.
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.