Jumping at the Chance to Study at Berkeley

My experience in the Berkeley Global Access Program in the Fall 2023 semester

Hi! My name is Zhong Li and I am currently a junior at Beijing International Studies University, majoring in Business English. I was always interested in studying abroad, but when the pandemic hit, my school’s study-abroad program was forced to close.

But in 2022, that program re-opened and I was the first candidate to join. I must confess that I was hesitant about doing that because I had feelings of uncertainty toward my future: I was about to start my third year of college, which meant I needed to decide whether I was going to pursue a master degree locally or overseas.

Several days later, what came to my sight and what amazed me was the name UC Berkeley being listed on my university’s study-abroad program website. The name Berkeley means one of the top universities in the world, where so many students have been dreaming about—including myself!

Berkeley is a top academic school and the embodiment of freedom and innovation, which really piqued my interest. Although I was unsure about my future direction, I told myself that this was an opportunity so close to my dream that I had no reason to say no and that I had to go explore. So I applied and was accepted into the Berkeley Global Access Program!


Zhong Li and a Berkeley faculty member giving the camera a thumbs-up in a building hallway

Accepted and Ready to Take Classes

During my Fall 2023 semester, I took Financial Information Analysis, Leadership and Personal Development, and Energy & Civilization classes, and the BGA-only Career Development and Coaching Seminar.

Because I’m majoring in Business English, it was easy for me to get through the language difficulties. However, English learning didn't help me understand the terms and knowledge in a very professional setting. So I spent plenty of time researching how the course concepts related to each other.

There was a huge difference between my home university and Berkeley’s learning models. At my home university, the lectures are usually dominated by the professor, with little opportunity to speak up or interact. However, at Berkeley, during lectures or group discussions, there is a significant amount of interactions. I felt that all of my classmates and myself were heard and valued!




Although I was unsure about my future direction, I told myself that this was an opportunity so close to my dream that I had no reason to say no and that I had to go explore.




Exploring Outside of the Classroom

I visited so many places—from shops and malls to museums and the beach to a great spot for an evening view of San Francisco!

My top 5 things to do in Berkeley and San Francisco include:

Explore campus to not only find beautiful sights, but to also experience campus life—in each library, at the top floor of the building, in the swimming pool—to see the beauty of the campus with heart.
Visit the gym, of course, to keep myself healthy.
Go to the beaches in Berkeley to see the sunset and feel the calm and serenity.
Take in the renowned views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Talk to the program staff and Berkeley students!

For students thinking about coming to Berkeley, I offer this advice: Join and enjoy. Explore. Speak up. Make mistakes.

No one is perfect and no one is going to laugh at you. Remember that you are the one who is unique.