Studying abroad during the Fall 2019 semester was an eye-opening experience for Olivia Ni. During her semester-long experience in the Berkeley Legal Studies Global Access Program (LSGAP), Olivia discovered a new type of learning environment, a diverse culture and a new perspective on law.
Taking her experiences back to East China University of Political Science and Law—from which she will soon graduate—Olivia now has her eyes set on coming back to Berkeley in the hopes of being accepted at our Law School.
What made you choose our legal studies program?
My home university provided us with a list of schools where you can study abroad. I narrowed it down to only universities in the United States. Of those, UC Berkeley Global was the only one out of the top 14 U.S. schools that offered a law program.
I chose Berkeley because I wanted to know what it was like to study at one of the top universities in the United States. I wanted to see how I would adapt to a new atmosphere and adapt to a new culture shock.
Tell me about your academic experience before coming to Berkeley. What were you looking to achieve after LSGAP?
Before I attended LSGAP, I participated in a summer internship that helped me get experience in this field. Although I am still an undergraduate, I hope in the future to return to Berkeley for law school. Although with the uncertainty nowadays, I may need to postpone it. If this is the case, I hope to work in the law field for a bit and get more experience. LSGAP definitely prepared me for this.
What courses did you take with the program?
I took the core courses, which at the time included U.S Supreme Court and Public Policy, Law Technology and Entrepreneurship, and How to Berkeley. However, the Human Rights: Indigenous Experience course was by far my favorite. I would recommend future students take this course.
What was your experience like taking classes?
The professors and graduate-student instructors were really helpful when I was having difficulties in a course or when I was working on case summaries.
I felt that the professors were humorous and friendly. They were all very engaging with us. My friends and I always felt comfortable going to our professors’ office hours—Professor R. Ben Brown, especially, was very open. We liked to go into his office and ask him all about U.S. culture and law.
How does taking these courses fit in with your future goals?
I definitely think I can use my knowledge and experience from LSGAP in my future professional life. Back home, international law firms require you to study a law system different from China’s.
Why should other international students be interested in attending the LSGAP program?
The program staff was very friendly to international students. I always felt comfortable going to the Berkeley Global advisers for help. When visiting LSGAP program adviser Lauren Cooper during office hours, she was always ready to answer questions and had great solutions.
Personally, this was my first time living on my own and with other international students. This was a new experience for me and I became more independent.
Aside from that, the Berkeley atmosphere is so relaxing and diverse. I always felt comfortable here and loved the warm weather. I hope to one day come back to Berkeley.
What were your top things to do in Berkeley and in the Bay Area?
1. I loved to travel around the Bay Area on the weekends.
2. The steak restaurants in Berkeley were amazing. It was so fun to go out to eat.
3. Going on site visits with my program. We toured a U.S. courtroom at the Alameda County Superior Court. Seeing this really gave me something to think about when returning back home.
What advice would you give to a student on how to best succeed at Berkeley?
You are required to read a lot of material. It can be hard reading all new information in a different language 24/7. I would advise future students to improve on their reading speed so they can handle these reading materials.
I also highly recommend taking the Human Rights: Indigenous Experience course. It was a very unique type of class, and I learned a lot from this. It is set in a smaller classroom setting and gives you the chance to engage more with your other classmates and professor.
I also recommend planning your trips ahead of time before you come to Berkeley. I wished I had planned more trips around the Bay Area and the U.S. in advance!
What does earning this certificate mean for you personally and professionally?
It gave me a sense of self-confidence. I now feel like I can handle new types of learning. I hope to apply for a master’s degree in the U.S. and plan to use these skills to better succeed in my future studies. I also believe attending LSGAP will really stand out on my résumé.
You can also hear from Olivia herself! Check out her blog where she shares about her time at Berkeley.