My Time in Berkeley: What I Expected vs. What I Got

How a big investment paid off for German student Markus Bendele

Markus Bendele is 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. His post originally appeared on his blog and has been edited for clarity and length.

Month #4: It's a wrap!

It’s a wrap! Four months later, I arrive back in cold and rainy Germany after spending one semester at the Haas School of Business at the University of California. I have to admit, I was very skeptical when arriving in Berkeley because I had never made an investment as big as $20K. Looking back, I do not regret any of it and if I were asked, I would do it all over again.

Intial Skepticism

I was skeptical of the academic experience; would the professors and the lectures really be so much better than the ones I was used to in the Cooperative State University of Baden-Württemberg?

I was skeptical of the whole Silicon Valley hype—could it really be that transformative, so unique that you could actually gain valuable insights and learning and benefit from it on a personal level?

Moreover, I was skeptical about the people; would my classmates be the ambitious kind with similar goals, or possibly even future business partners?

Lastly, I was skeptical about the Bay Area: would it be what I had dreamed of, this beautiful natural scenery emerging in a city where you can do whatever you want at all times?

"If I were asked, I would do it all over again."

In Retrospect: Looking Back at My Experience

To be honest, I can say that I have not been disappointed.

Instead, I am grateful for what I got to experience and my expectations were satisfied in every aspect. I got to hear lectures from some of the best professors in the United States on topics that were relevant and interesting to me, and had discussions of immense value.

Back home in Germany, I don’t think I would have ever written a paper about the business strategy of brain-machine interfaces and their potential to change our way of life. Further, in addition to my regular study schedule I participated in many events, workshops and talks that helped me thrive.

I also got to peek into the greatest companies in the world, gaining insights from employees and asking them questions on what I am curious about. I learned about the work culture and what makes Silicon Valley so exceptional. And I have met a lot of people that had a lasting impact on me, even if it was just a ten-minute talk at a rooftop bar. Talking about people, I had classmates from all over the world, got to know their cultures and learned about how they think and act. But even more important, I made lifelong friends–people that I appreciate on a personal but also professional level, and that I want to stay in contact with.

BHGAP student Markus poses with a friend outside

Last but not least, I also got to see some of the beauty of California. With roadtrips to L.A., San Diego, or Santa Cruz, I went to beautiful beaches and enjoyed stunning sunsets. I hiked mind-boggling mountains in Yosemite, swam in Hollywood pools, and ate at renowned restaurants in Malibu.


"I made lifelong friends – people that I appreciate on a personal but also professional level."

To sum it up, I had the time of my life with the best people I could have wished for. Of course, there are downsides to everything: Berkeley was not always a sunny place, I spent many weekends working on assignments, I spent a ton of money on food and housing. But in the end you have to calculate everything and see what you yourself got out of it. For me personally, I can say that it was worth it and that those four months will be remembered for a long time. If you're still in doubt let’s get in contact.

Thanks for reading!

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.