A Fun-Filled Fall Semester at BGA

Exciting classes, inquisitive mind and networking opportunity abound

Hello! My name is Xiangjian Zhang and I recently graduated from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, where I majored in information and computing science and minored in computer science and technology.

I am a graduate of the Berkeley Global Access Program’s Fall 2023 cohort.

The first time I heard about Berkeley was from my sister. She spent her undergraduate years there and is now pursuing a master's degree at Columbia University. She once sent me a video of herself at Berkeley while hosting an event where she introduced students' daily life. In the video, students were playing Frisbee® and having picnics on the lawn under the sun, looking relaxed and enjoying college life. That was when I began to think that Berkeley was a wonderful place to be.

During my mathematics studies, my complex function teacher recommended a Group Theory course by Professor Richard E. Borcherds from UC Berkeley. The professor introduced the concept of groups in such an engaging way that it suddenly all made sense to me. Since then, Berkeley has become a highly respected place for learning to me.

So when I saw the Berkeley Global Access Program among the school's visiting-student programs, I immediately applied for it—and was accepted!


Xiangjian Zhang and friends standing in front of the beach

Taking Classes at Berkeley

I took Numerical Analysis (Math XB128A) as it was a required course for my major. Because I also have a minor degree in computer science, I took Optimization Models in Engineering (EECS 127), which intersects both mathematics and computer science.

Additionally, I was very interested in complex functions, so I took Several Complex Variables (MATH XB212). However, when I started that class, I found out that it was for Ph.D. students. I could barely keep up with the first class, but the subsequent content was completely new to me. Professor Maciej Zworski was very kind. He realized that I was an undergraduate student and patiently answered my questions about theorems and proofs after each class. He inspired me to continue exploring the field of mathematics.

The curriculum at Berkeley is quite different from that at my alma mater. There, the courses are fully arranged and students simply follow the schedule. At Berkeley, I could choose some interdisciplinary subjects more freely and arrange my class times more appropriately.

The teaching style is also a little different. At my alma mater, students tend to ask questions after class, making the teaching rhythm more coherent. At Berkeley, students are more active in class discussions, which I think stimulates everyone’s thinking about the course content.


Xiangjian Zhang and Oski Bear taking a photo


Happy Accidents Leads to Networking

I attended a BGA workshop where the adviser introduced us to the steps needed to develop a network. She explained that networking is about asking for direction and gave an example of a successful social event where both parties gained something.

A week later, BGA staff invited me to a peer happy hour at a local restaurant. I arrived a little early and saw a bonfire in the yard with a large group of people chatting around it. I naturally went over to sign in and started to take the tableware for the buffet. After a while, a woman who seemed to be in charge spoke, expressing enthusiasm for the event. After everyone applauded, we began to eat and chat. It wasn’t until a man with a name tag introduced himself, and asked, “Which company are you working for?”

I quickly realized that this was a corporate gathering! I recalled the importance of networking, explained that I was a visiting student at UC Berkeley, and had mistaken the event for a peer happy hour. The man asked about my major, and I replied that I was studying mathematics and minoring in computer science. I thought that maybe after I graduate, I will be able to attend this type of event!

Fortunately, after some searching, I found my peer mentor and joined our student group.


Xiangjian Zhang and friends sitting at a table waiting for food to arrive

My Top Things to Do in Berkeley and San Francisco

BGA organized a visit to Google where we followed the project manager and gained a deeper understanding of how a super Internet company works. The sandwiches in the employee cafeteria were delicious! There were even game consoles in the lounge! This trip to Google gave me firsthand insight into the working environment and operating model of Internet companies.


Xiangjian Zhang holding up pass in front of Google building


I also watched the airplane show during Fleet Week in San Francisco. People crowded the pier, eagerly watching the fighter planes flying overhead. The entire city felt their arrival.

Back on campus, every hour on the hour, piano music emanates from the Campanile. I went to visit the tower to see how the piano works.

My Advice to You

To anyone starting their Berkeley Global program, I want to say that studying and living in Berkeley will give you a completely different educational experience and lifelong memories. Enjoy it!

Go Bears!

Check out more of my photos from my time in Berkeley!

Xiangjian Zhang and friends having a game night at an apartment


Xiangjian Zhang standing in front of Meta sign


Xiangjian Zhang and friends at a basketball game