Once a Golden Bear, Always a Golden Bear

Berkeley Global Access Program alumna Nicola Schreyer shares how UC Berkeley got her thinking about possibilities

A Fulbright scholarship through the German Fulbright Association made possible a life-changing semester studying in the Berkeley Global Access Program (BGA) for Nicola Schreyer, a German student earning her master’s degree in business information systems at Leopold-Franzens Universität Innsbruck in Austria. She had already completed her undergraduate education in business administration from Otto-Friedrich-Universität Bamberg and was in graduate school, when she applied to BGA for her third semester.

Now back in Europe to defend her thesis, Nicola reflects on the educational and career opportunities bestowed on her while in the San Francisco Bay Area during the Fall 2022 semester and how these experiences have influenced and will help her build on her career goals.


Nicola, how did attending a visiting-student semester program with Berkeley Global fit into your academic goals?

BGA not only gave me the opportunity to choose the classes that fit in my curriculum at my home university, but also allowed me to take classes that are not available back home. The courses gave me insights into more advanced topics. Through the classes, I was able to build connections with my professors and lecturers, which opened up a huge space for discussions and future learning opportunities.

The knowledge I gained and the topics we discussed in my Berkeley classes are a perfect asset to bring into my research for my master thesis that I’m conducting, which is going to be a collaboration with the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and the BMW IT Hub, also based in Pretoria. My thesis research is on how teenagers and future generations will learn how to code.


Which classes did you take that aligned with and boosted your major and thesis?

  • Citizen Clinic, a class on cybersecurity at the School of Information, covered the spectrum of the cyberworld and how to prevent hacking attacks, which is one of many areas in the field of information systems. In this clinic, we collaborated with international NGOs and worked on a framework to prevent cyber attacks, but we also talked about potential weaknesses.

  • Entrepreneurship: New Venture Discovery was another course with the School of Information. In the beginning, we brainstormed ideas and discussed societal needs. We then chose the ideas we were interested in, worked on our startup projects and developed a prototype that we tested in class. After several weeks and iterations, we got the chance to pitch our projects to Silicon Valley operating CEOs and received feedback from them.

  • Politics of Information, also with the School of information, expanded the mainstream ideas of how internet governance should work. We looked at different social media platforms and focused on why users should be more informed about what's happening with their data. We discussed a lot of ethical questions in terms of responsibility and the role of AI in the future. The input I received in that class is very valuable for my project.

Depending on the results of my thesis project, I would love to work for BMW in their UX design department and focus on designing the outlook/screens for their board computers. The Entrepreneurship: New Venture Discovery class was the one that made me think further, to develop something new and try to find that one gap that needs to be filled.


How does the teaching style at UC Berkeley differ from that at your home university?

In Germany and Austria, students go to class or lectures without any interaction with the professor. In Berkeley, every class I attended was full of presentations, discussions and open brainstorming. Grades did not only depend on one grade as in Germany, but instead were cumulatively combined from many projects, exams and assignments. Also here, lecturers and students had a very familiar understanding; it was common to know the student’s name and sometimes even call professors by their first name.


Among the things visiting students need to navigate when coming to BGA are the housing opportunities in the San Francisco Bay Area. What was your experience with this?

I had posted a little summary with a photo in lots of Bay Area/Berkeley–housing Facebook group chats. Some American students texted me, and I got to live in a huge house with 11 American students—a perfect opportunity to really get in touch with the American way of living and to engage in the culture. I still miss every single one of them!


In a previous BGA Ambassador blog post, you shared your community experiences as a Fulbright Scholar in Berkeley. Did you also participate in any campus clubs? What were your top five things to do in the Bay Area?

I participated in the Cal Hiking and Outdoor Society (CHAOS) at UC Berkeley. Through that, I got to meet a lot of very welcoming and outgoing people who are into outdoor activities as much as I am.

My top five favorite things to do while in the Bay Area were:

1.) Hike in the Berkeley Hills and see the sunset beyond the Golden Gate Bridge.
2.) Go to Chinatown and try all the yummy food.
3.) Check out Taco Tuesday at Raleigh’s Pub, and afterwards Tap Haus—perfect for meeting many internationals.
4.) Study in the cute cafés that are spread all over campus: Yali’s Café, Café Think, Free Speech Movement Café, and my all-time favorite, Caffè Strada.
5.) Go to a football game, get the Cal merch, and tailgate or pregame at the frat parties on Fraternity Road—American college life in a nutshell!


What advice would you give to someone beginning their BGA program?

Really make the most out of it. Say YES to everything—it’s your semester abroad. Be open to new things. Try out new sports, go out to meet new friends, even though Netflix at home would be easier. Try to do your class assignments during the week so you have the weekend to travel.

San Francisco and California, in general, offer so many amazing opportunities: Yosemite, Malibu, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Monterey, Carmel by the Sea, Sausalito, Point Reyes, Stinson Beach, et cetera.


Do you plan on returning to Berkeley in the future?

I will most certainly return, either during my professional career, for my friends' weddings that will be coming up, or just for seeing all of my UC Berkeley friends again. Because once a bear, always a bear.