From Foundation Year to Future Engineer

CFP graduate, Saudi Arabia native Fares Alsherhi gains admission to University of California, San Diego

Fares Alsherhi excelled in high school. He had a passion for science and technology, getting involved in science fairs and various school programs. 

Throughout his high school years, Fares grew to love chemical engineering and decided that this is what he wanted to study in college. His dream was to study at a top university in the United States, in hopes of working as an engineer in the racecar industry.

During his senior year, Fares began the process of determining what it would take to get into a four-year university in the United States. He quickly realized it wouldn't be easy.

Applying Himself

The admission and application processes at U.S. universities surprised him. The requirements were very different in comparison to those for Saudi Arabia’s educational institutions. The personal statement and essay portions struck him the most.

Fares in San Francisco

“In Saudi Arabia, an application consists of simply your name, phone number, high school information, GPA, et cetera,” Fares explains. “No essays are required for the admissions officers to get to know you.”

He started to become nervous about his chances of being accepted into a U.S. university. Fares felt pressure from his family and friends to attend a top university in the U.S., such as UC Berkeley, MIT or Stanford. Additionally, his English and SAT scores were not quite at the level required and he needed more time to prepare. It was time to decide what route was best for his academic career.

So Fares made the decision to take a “gap” year instead of going directly to a university after graduating high school.

Still wanting to experience university life in the United States, Fares began looking into programs that could help him improve his college application. “I wanted to ‘experiment’ with what it would be like taking college courses and try to become more independent,” Fares explains.

That is where Berkeley Global’s College Foundations Program (CFP) comes into the picture.

Building a Foundation

Fares and faculty

From his own research and by talking with friends, Fares realized taking part in this preparation program would allow him to be surrounded by motivated university-seeking students and well-known faculty.

Within Fares’s first few weeks in Berkeley, he was immediately surprised by what CFP had to offer. By learning in smaller class sizes, Fares and his fellow students were able to have more in-depth discussions with their professors and feel comfortable asking questions. It never felt like a lecture—more of a conversation within the classroom.

“One of the biggest things I learned in CFP was academic writing, practicing my English skills in the classroom and writing college applications and essays,” he shares. “For someone whose English is their second language, the college essays and writing portion is so crucial.”

By studying courses such as Advanced Writing, University Application Essays, and Listening and Speaking, Fares felt more comfortable with his English writing ability.

Fares also took classes in subjects such as calculus, literature and physics, as well as SAT testing skills. This variety of courses helped him become a well-rounded, confident student.

Gaining Independence

Outside of the classroom, Fares gained an increasing sense of independence. This was the first year he had ever lived on his own (and in a new country!).

During his year in the program, Fares learned how to manage his academics with his social life, how to find an apartment, live with new roommates and even cook. These new skills will serve him well during his upcoming university studies.

When Fares was not focusing on his studies, he loved to explore what California had to offer. He enjoyed trying Berkeley’s amazing restaurants, going to blues concerts, visiting the Escape Room in San Francisco and playing games with his new friends.

“One of my favorite memories was going with friends to the ‘Asian Ghetto’ in Berkeley. That area had so many great foods. One Italian restaurant, Gypsy’s, had my favorite calzones. I would go back to Berkeley just to eat there again!”

Oh, and did we mention that Fares was selected as one of CFP’s student presidents? This amazing opportunity allowed Fares to collaborate directly with the Berkeley Global staff. He organized multiple events and field trips for his cohort based on their interests, such as touring Stanford University and an outing to Union Square in San Francisco.

“Having the opportunity to be CFP’s student body president helped me learn to maintain a budget, connect the cohort with the staff and practice my presentation skills,” Fares shares.

From the Bay to the Beach

Was the investment in CFP worth it for Fares? A resounding, Yes!

Fares was accepted to many different schools around the United States. He officially accepted his offer of admission to the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) for the Fall 2019 term.

Now a sophomore at UCSD, Fares has no regrets on his decision. He enjoys continuing his studies in engineering.

Fares in San Diego

Outside of his studies, Fares discovered many new opportunities in San Diego. With a love for the environment and the ocean—he goes diving often—Fares went on to join the “Ocean Lovers Club” on campus and even became the president of the student-led organization. The organization has values and goals that are in line with his own. This allowed him to connect with people with similar interests. Joining a club has made his experience at UCSD even better than he could have expected. 

Looking back on his experience with us, Fares says, “It is in the name ‘College Foundations Program’ where you can take the time to prepare yourself and gain more skills to build your future at a U.S university.”