Think globally, act locally.
I bet you have heard this sentence before; if not, I advise you to take a moment to reflect on this catchphrase. I heard it for the first time in a business setting at INSEAD’s entrepreneurship program when I was 16. Thinking that it sounded pretty clever and amazed by the fact that it rhymed, the sentence has stuck with me ever since.
However, I don’t believe I truly have felt these four words on a personal level before joining the Berkeley Global Access (BGA) Program. My interpretation is that by applying one’s engagement, interest and knowledge where they are, they can create a great amount of growth by thinking outside of the box, exploring new areas and meeting people with new backgrounds and insights. Without making this sound like a commercial essay, this is, in my humble opinion, what you can expect from Berkeley as a BGA student.
Being a visiting student at Berkeley allows you to make the best out of your program and explore your interests in the very best kind of way with truly amazing people.
During your first week at UC Berkeley, you can expect to be immersed in a completely new environment, a new system and with people from all over the world. Like most of my cohort, I had never been—not to mention moved—this far away from home on my own. You’ll quickly learn that Europe is “turned off” from 3 pm as everyone is sound asleep with the time difference being nine hours.
The previous semester, I had been on an exchange in Italy; however, this experience couldn’t have been more different. Being a visiting student at Berkeley allows you to make the best out of your program and explore your interests in the very best kind of way with truly amazing people. Again, I try to not make this sound like a commercial and it’s truly one’s own responsibility to create one’s very best unique experience. But isn’t that the beauty of it? The program’s advisers will always help you along the way. My approach was that “it’s better to call the BGA adviser one time too many than one time too few,” as I learned that there is no “one time too many.”
Berkeley has all sorts of clubs where you can “Act Locally.” There are many additional possibilities of being a part of the global environment, but also being active as any other Berkeley student. And if clubs aren’t your thing, you're “acting” more than “locally” enough by only being drawn into the classes and the communities, or even by absorbing the many aspects that San Francisco and California offer.
By the fact that you’re international at Berkeley and get easily in touch with Americans, you’ll also witness a local culture exchange and leave your local footprint.
Even though one truly feels lost in the beginning of the semester and campus itself can be a small town, you’ll easily become immersed in the Berkeley student routines and traditions, as well as having your international community at your back. You’ll quickly understand that on Tuesdays there is Taco Tuesday at Raleigh's, Wednesdays are for grinding the undone schoolwork at Main Stacks and Fridays are always closer than you think as time flies.
Bigger events such as Game Day in the fall or Cal Day in spring, as well as naked-run in main stacks before finals (you’ll see, you’ll see), gives the university its own flavor. There are many traditions at Berkeley, empowering every student with a strong sense of local pride in the university. If it is wearing the Berkeley sweater around campus, dropping a little “Go bears!” in random settings, or even tanning with good friends on the Memorial Glade in-between classes and arguing over who’s going to go down to the café and pick up coffee this time.
However, it is easier than one thinks to connect with fellow students—being international or not—as a BGA student has (pretty much) every benefit as any Berkeley student and is always received with a big smile. By the fact that you’re international at Berkeley and get easily in touch with Americans, you’ll also witness a local culture exchange and leave your local footprint. One episode I’ll never forget was that my American housemates, as sweet as they were, asked me if I was okay as the temperature had passed 20 degrees celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit). They believed Norwegians would melt with a lack of snow, as this must be “extremely hot for you.”
We do have warm summers in Norway, as well!
Inspired by Professors
The professors are also your very best advisers in the process. One of my favorite parts of the school week was going to office hours offered by one of my professors at Berkeley Haas, Cristina Banks, discussing how human resource management is very different in the U.S. than in Norway. This semester, I was so fortunate as to be boosted by the most infectious passion for the fields I am studying by my professors. After two years of online classes, one’s academic spark can easily fade away in the comfort of one’s couch and an inner voice repeating “just get the schoolwork over with and move on.”
Even though one can play buzzword bingo with the names of their professors—as they are often globally renowned—I was as impressed with the curriculum and the professors’ engagement.
However, with passionate professors who are always available for discussing the topics outside of class and with well-structured content, I was fortunate that the classes I took gave me a new academic spark. After all, as the motto of Berkeley states, Fiat Lux!—Let there be light. I will never forget Ms. Bank’s first lecture, online, saying, "I live to teach, I want to make a change through my teaching, giving talent a chance to change the world. I am way past my pension age, but hope to teach five more years. Trying not to die during this class—kidding!"
Don’t get me wrong, the classes may be as much of a character development as academic development. Pushing one out of the academic comfort zone was not unusual; however, you feel that the tasks are truly relevant and build useful skills. Even though one can play buzzword bingo with the names of their professors—as they are often globally renowned—I was as impressed with the curriculum and the professors’ engagement. Taking Social Psychology and Information Technology was a unique class at Berkeley, giving a new dimension to my computer science major—and the professor almost dancing with his arms in order to express his wise words! Sometimes it felt like watching a TED Talk.
Taking AI with Stuart Russel—the man with the name written on the bottom-right of all the books of my computer science classes back in Norway—was amazing on a whole other level than simply academica. It’s said that performance comes with motivation and ability, and, again, without making this sound like a commercial, I was fortunate that my professors gave me motivation and a structured toolbox, allowing me to perform academically and giving me a foundation to use professionally in the future.
Making New Friends, Lifelong Memories
An important aspect to remember is that the students around you are most likely in the same situation. The amount of new and inspiring people you meet is remarkable, and I have truly met some of the most amazing people, whom I hope to have lifelong bonds with. I remember wondering why people often go on dates and do something scary such as ride a rollercoaster or watch a scary movie. Why not just chill? The answer is that it builds a much stronger bond. For me, Berkeley was scary and new on many fronts, but there was something about witnessing and going through the process with new friends that created a bond that was like nothing else. I came all alone and am leaving with so many strong friendships.
Many visiting students come and go. You won’t get the same depth with everyone as you’ll meet many different people, with the bare minimum of putting yourself out there a bit. Who knows? Maybe you’ll go on trips with them, as well? Maybe this is your way of thinking Globally (hint hint)?
Berkeley was scary and new on many fronts, but there was something about witnessing and going through the process with new friends that created a bond that was like nothing else. I came all alone and am leaving with so many strong friendships.
This semester. I was fortunate to travel to Lake Tahoe, the borders of Nevada/California, Los Angeles, Cancún, Tulum, Hawaii and Yosemite and took the train down the coast to Santa Barbara and San Diego. Be aware, this is perhaps way too much to fit into one semester, as it wasn’t unusual for me to do finance homework on a hostel floor in L.A., pretty stressed the week before four unprepared midterms or doing the CS188 coding projects on the plane as if I were a secret agent in Mission Impossible.
Another great memory was running up the stairs at Haas into one of my 8 am pop quizzes with sand still stuck on my calves and an ocean breeze from Hawaii in my ears—I took the red-eye flight to make it all. Again, I do not necessarily recommend this, and it may be wise to save the travels for spring break and other vacations. However, the memories made from exploring these traveling possibilities when living in California, with the other international students, are memories I’ll treasure forever.
Explore, Explore, Explore
The world is yours, and with the lack of a pandemic and a hint of an adventurous mind, there is so much to explore. San Francisco is also only 40 minutes away by bus, and in addition to offering interesting job opportunities for the future, the city is filled with adventures. With an abundance of different cultures and sights, no weekend in San Francisco is boring. Personally, I highly enjoyed Chinatown and the view from Mission Dolores Park is like nothing I had ever seen before.
To wrap it all up, studying at Berkeley gives a global taste on a whole other level with the students. San Francisco is right around the corner and there are many traveling opportunities. You’ll slowly see that the way you think, throughout the semester, changes; there are more and more opportunities to grasp and new global insights to inspire you.
Being inspired by all these new inputs around you, there are many ways you can apply your curiosity and aspirations at Berkeley.—whether it’s by going to motivating office hours on campus or taking a day trip to Alcatraz in San Francisco.