From Munich to Berkeley for BHGAP

German Student Karin Szu shares details about her first experience in the U.S. studying at UC Berkeley

Karin Szu is a business administration and computer science student from the Technical University of Munich, and a graduate of the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program (BHGAP), which brings international students from diverse backgrounds to study business and entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley. Her post originally appeared on her blog and has been edited for clarity and length.

Let me Introduce Myself

My name is Karin, a globetrotter, a foodie, and an adventurer at heart. I study business administration and computer science at the Technical University of Munich. One month ago, I packed my bags and my curiosity to escape the cold winter weather in Munich and embark on this life-changing journey to Berkeley. If you’ve been wondering why my blog is called, that’s because I’m a student in the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program (BHGAP) at UC Berkeley, a Spring 2019 BHGAPer.

Settling in at Berkeley

Karin and some of her friends taking a selfie at a restaurant in honor of Chinese New Year.

Since it was my first time traveling alone and my first trip to the U.S., I was excited and nervous at the same time. Soon after I arrived in the Bay Area, however, I found my family here! How, you ask? The International House at UC Berkeley is the place to live when you’re looking for your home away from home. 

The first few weeks at UC Berkeley have been transformative indeed. I met my amazing fellow BHGAPers, visited San Francisco for the first time with them, and celebrated Chinese New Year together. This celebration is a big deal in the San Francisco Bay Area due to the high population of Chinese immigrants here.

Contemplating Classes 

A view of the International House on the UC Berkeley campus, taken right before sunset

Over the past few days, I was busy finalizing my class schedule. Berkeley, or Cal as it's often called, offers a huge variety of interesting classes. It was a tough choice! My BHGAP courses are:

In addition, I’m taking one course from the main UC Berkeley course catalog, Navigating Life’s Financial Decisions. However, the class I was looking forward to the most was Introduction to Chocolate (a student-run course through an organization called DeCal) all about chocolate 🙂. Unfortunately, my application was denied because too many students were interested in taking this course, but life moves on I guess…

Karin and her friend from BHGAP posed and smiling in front of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Gaining Insight From Experts 

A large monitor with the Berkeley Skydesk logo projected on it.

The Berkeley Haas Global Access Program not only gives you the opportunity to study at one of the best business schools in the U.S., but it also allows you to explore all that UC Berkeley and the Bay Area has to offer, from student clubs to speaker series and company visits. Speaking of company visits, our first visit this semester was to Berkeley SkyDeckBHGAP allows you to visit so many companies around the Bay Area. The most interesting company so far has been DocuSign, which provides electronic signature technology and digital transaction management services.

The Classroom Experience: Germany vs. UC Berkeley

An image of students listening intently to the professor during one of the BHGAP classes.

So far, I’ve been truly enjoying all of my BHGAP courses. I did notice a huge difference between the way courses are taught here at Cal and the way courses are taught at my home university. At TU Munich, class sizes tend to be bigger, which makes it more difficult to allow deep dive discussions and interactions with the professors. The BHGAP classes are much smaller with around 2030 students per class. I appreciate how we’re able to receive much more individualized attention this way and get more chances to talk to our professors. Also, the class and case discussions are the most valuable part of the Berkeley Haas learning experience because they stimulate analytical and creative thinking. I still remember our BHGAP co-director Alex Budak encouraged us to act like a peer in the classroom, not like a consumer. Being a peer means co-producing learning instead of merely consuming it! 

Gaining Insight From Experts 

Karin and the rest of the BHGAP group posing for a picture during their visit to the company Docusign.

Last week, we had a guest lecture on Artificial Intelligence by Matthew Stepka, who is an Executive-in-Residence Visiting Scholar at Berkeley Haas. The four insights from his talk were: AI is:

  • real now
  • teaching computers rather than programming
  • not magic
  • a mirror to humanity

Thank you so much for reading! Until next time!


Learn More

The Berkeley Haas Global Access Program brings international students to UC Berkeley to study business and entrepreneurship. It also offers plenty to do and see outside of class.

Want to hear more student perspectives? Read more BHGAP blogs or visit our website.