What Is It Like Being an International Student at the Berkeley Haas School of Business?

My name is Sarah Worsøee Larsen and I’m a 23-year-old undergraduate student from Aarhus University, School of Business and Social Sciences. My major is economics and business administration and during the fall 2021 semester, I am attending the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program (BHGAP) at the Haas School of Business.

BHGAP is a business program for international students structured to provide top-qualified students with the knowledge and skills needed to excel as the innovators and global leaders of the future. As part of the program, I am studying courses such as Introduction to Entrepreneurship, Opportunity Recognition: Technology and Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley and High-Technology Marketing Management. In addition, I have the opportunity to visit Silicon Valley companies and create a global network from the Bay Area.

What makes BHGAP so unique is that all the courses focus on the most recent high-tech companies, startups and innovations from the Bay Area. These are all topics that tend to be more difficult to explore at your home university. Most lectures have guest speakers who talk about how they explored the many opportunities of the Bay Area and developed their careers. The guest speakers are a mix of startup founders, leaders and innovators. They inspire you and teach how hard work pays off and that you should follow your dreams and believe in yourself.

My Path to the University of California, Berkeley

Cal Football Game

For many, choosing your field of study is a hard decision. I have always made my decisions by following my heart and choosing to follow my interests over what everyone else wants me to do. I believe that if you follow your interests and seize all the opportunities you encounter along the way, you will end up finding something that you love. When I chose to study business, I had no idea what I wanted to work on and I still am struggling to figure this out. So when I saw the opportunity to study abroad, I knew that I had to go. Studying abroad does not only allow you to explore new areas, but it is also a cultural experience that inspires you to see things differently than you do at home.

But why did I choose to study with Berkeley Global? In 2017, I traveled around California with my family and we visited UC Berkeley. Back then I became very fascinated by the studious environment and atmosphere on the campus, but I never imagined that it would be possible for me to come back for my studies. When I heard of the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program, I found it to be in perfect line with my academic and professional goals and I knew that I had to apply. EDU Danmark, an organization that helps students organize their studies abroad, helped me with the application process. The application process is simple, but you must fulfill a lot of requirements to get accepted since it’s a very ambitious program. The BHGAP staff and team members are very service-minded and they are happy to help you with any questions or concerns you may have both during the application process and your stay in Berkeley.

What Happens After Being Accepted to America’s #1 Public University?

Receiving my acceptance letter from the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program is my biggest academic accomplishment so far. A few weeks ago, UC Berkeley was ranked as the best university in the United States by Forbes magazine. What I believe makes UC Berkeley the best university in the U.S. is that it is a very diverse school. UC Berkeley is a public school with students from many different cultural backgrounds and with different levels of income, which creates a learning environment consisting of the most ambitious students in the world.

Studying at a top university is not for everyone. The workload is hard and your professors have high expectations for your work. However, your professors are also willing to help you and provide feedback on your work.

The focus is on learning and improvement, and imperfection is not punished but seen as a part of your learning process. The professors at Haas are highly talented and have a lot of professional experience in the areas that they teach. This means that you will not only learn theory in the classroom but also how the theory is used by real businesses in Silicon Valley.

Studying at UC Berkeley vs. Studying in Denmark

Studying with Berkeley Global is really different compared to studying in Denmark. At UC Berkeley you are required to attend all classes, participate in class and submit all your assignments. This means that you get evaluated on your performance every day, thus your final grade will not depend only on your final exam. At my home university Aarhus University in Denmark, we have a really different approach. Class attendance and assignments are optional and your final grades depend only on the final exams. Often there are 150 students at a lecture, making it impossible for all students to ask questions and discuss with the professors.

What I like about the approach at UC Berkeley is that you receive feedback from your professors throughout the semester and have a chance to improve before the final exam. In Denmark, it is your own responsibility to attend the lectures, keep track and get your readings done. Most students handle this very well and use the professor’s office hours and the Teacher Assistant’s classes to discuss the curriculum. However, you will not get graded before the end of the semester, where it is already too late to improve your skills.

Exploring California With Your New Friends

Lake Tahoe

When you need a break from your studies, there are plenty of places to explore. California has it all—big cities, beautiful natural parks and sunny beaches. You can rent a car, grab your friends and go out of town for the weekends. 

So far, I have visited Los Angeles, Big Sur and Lake Tahoe. Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to and must be seen in real life. We rented an Airbnb, went hiking, swam in the lake and had a barbeque at night. What’s not to like! However, if you prefer to stay in the Bay Area, take a bike stroll around Googleplex or go try a new cuisine in one of San Francisco’s many restaurants. The next place I’m going to is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (MOMA).

Your fellow BHGAP students come from all around the world and most are interested in exploring California and the Bay Area during their stay in Berkeley. You will not only find new travel buddies but also make new friends and create a network of ambitious young people from all around the world.

Big Sur

What’s Next?

When I finish my semester in BHGAP, I will go home to Denmark to write my bachelor’s thesis. Afterward, I want to apply for an internship or study for a master’s degree. This semester has definitely made me want to go abroad again. I am convinced that what I learn and explore this semester at UC Berkeley will help me make decisions in the future.