On the first day of the semester, Alex Budak, the program director of the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program, said that this semester would be transformational for us. At the time, this was hard to believe. I attributed it to the optimism and excitement prevalent in the Bay Area which I immediately liked.
As the semester began, everything was new to me in the unique culture of Berkeley and the Bay Area, even starting with how people greet each other. It’s a bit like learning a social dance, with invisible verbal choreography.
Living in another country gave me not only the opportunity to learn about a new culture, but to challenge myself, and meet many new people with diverse backgrounds.
It was exciting and valuable to have the chance to visit companies in the first half of the semester in all stages of maturity, from Lime, Ripple, and Spotify, to LinkedIn, Salesforce, and Oracle, among others. The Bay Area offers seemingly endless opportunities for getting exposure to the tech industry. One highlight was Dreamforce, an industry fair in San Francisco bringing together customers, employees and other key stakeholders to connect, exchange knowledge, and educate professionals.
The academic life at UC Berkeley is very different from most other universities: the classroom experience is what really matters here. Every student contributes to the experience by sharing his or her perspective with the class. The diversity of thoughts and perspectives makes the lectures engaging and enriching.
The professors have an impressive record of achievements in the private sector, so they support their material with engaging stories and let students benefit from their experience. Every professor is committed to helping the students succeed, no matter what. They take the time to understand what drives their students and how they can best support them. Professors promote critical, out-of-the-box thinking through case studies.
Having worked with over 20 case studies in 15 weeks, it enriched my perspective on how to tackle business problems. First, students hand in their written answers, and then the solution and the frameworks to “crack” the case are introduced. This process enables us to first use our own frameworks, and then enrich them with what we learn in class and evaluate our approach based on what we have learned.
For me, the value of this semester is really having all the ingredients for a great experience in one place: unique professors, an ecosystem of talent, capital, and entrepreneurs close by.
As the semester comes to an end, I think of the new insights and perspectives I developed. One of Berkeley Haas’ four Defining Principles is to question the status quo. What we learned throughout the semester challenges how we think about innovation and entrepreneurship.
How will we keep those insights? How will we apply our knowledge at home? Going back home can be a challenge just as going abroad can be a challenge. Fortunately, everybody in our cohort shares this experience. Sitting in Chou Hall, and writing this text, I think this semester was precisely what Alex promised it would be for us. It was transformational. I appreciate the chance to study at one of the best universities in the world and once again look forward to meeting new people, seeking new challenges, and developing new skills.
Special thanks to Jerome Antonio for sharing his BHGAP experience with us.
The Berkeley Haas Global Access Program brings international students to UC Berkeley to study business and entrepreneurship. Want to learn more? Visit our website.