My Berkeley Global Access Program Experience During COVID-19

Chinese student Xiyan Li shares her unique student experience

My name is Xiyan Li. I'm a Chinese student who is participating in the Berkeley Global Access (BGA) program this semester. Normally, the plan is to study in Berkeley for a semester at the UC Berkeley campus. However COVID-19 has prevented me from going abroad and visiting the campus in person. Luckily with the help of the internet, my semester has managed to still be instructive and joyful. Now I’d like to provide some insight into what life is like as a Berkeley Global student who is studying remotely from China.

The Internet Takes Over Everything

Although the pandemic has stopped us from meeting each other face to face, the internet has already built another world for everyone to explore. I chose to take the course called Fundamentals of Photovoltaic Devices, which has two lectures and one discussion each week. All are live classes through Zoom and are also recorded. This enables the professor to see each students’ face and interact with us. Although I haven’t seen my professor in person, she has already become a friend to me.



In addition to Zoom, we also use other platforms to keep in touch and transmit files. The most important platforms are Google mail, Gradescope and bCourses. Google mail is the key approach to communicate with others and receive notice for new announcements. Gradescope is where we upload the homework. bCourses is where all the files and videos can be found.


Remember to Check the Time!

A vital thing for me to remember is that I’m not in the same time zone as Berkeley, California. So it is important that I set up an alarm for my classes, especially for BGA. It turns out that my lectures start at 1 o’clock am and my discussions begin at 5 o’clock am. Thus, staying up late has become my new routine.

For awhile it seemed like I had handled the time zone issue. Nevertheless, I still made a mistake—I didn’t know that there was a time change in U.S. (That’s because in China we have canceled the DST since 1992.)

So what ended up happening? I entered into the class an hour later. At first, I didn’t realized what was going on. Then I saw professor saying hi to me and I even happily responded. Next, I was told that I had joined the class an hour late. It was so embarrassing! But luckily my classmates were so kind and they tried to comfort me. The professor even briefly told me what I had missed and encouraged me to visit office hours just in case I had any problems.

This small situations reminds me to check the details in the future. And now I will never forget time changes and be aware of the Pacific Daylight Saving Time (PDT)!

Class Requires Passion!

One thing I found amazing is that most students I met are so devoted to what they are studying. When we have classes in Berkeley, it means that you really need to participate in the class—asking questions, responding to the teachers, joining in on the discussion and giving presentations. I remember my professor saying "No questions are ever dull," which greatly encouraged me to step out my comfort zoom and speak up in class.

Studying requires not only the understanding of the teacher’s lecture, but also hours of work outside of the class. Although we often read from the textbooks and presentation slides, finding other materials to read is also important. As a Chinese student, I find that English materials are manageable for me to read but takes time for me to comprehend. So I decided to buy a Chinese textbook and have spent more than ten hours a week reading it. It’s a difficult way to study, but will help me complete the course successfully.

What I Have Learned

Joining the BGA program has been an unforgettable experience for me. It reminds me that there are always a group of people studying hard no matter how hard their situation is. Their passion will always encourage me to overcome my laziness and conquer my fear to move on. I sincerely hope that one day I can go to Berkeley and visit the campus in person when the pandemic ends.