I spent a dreamlike summer vacation at UC Berkeley, which I summarize as long yet short. It was a completely new environment for me, but I was able to attain good scores by studying hard just as I do at Sookmyung. I also traveled a lot in my spare time and made friends from all over the world. In the same amount of time, everyone has different memories and experiences. Regardless, if you’d like a special and unforgettable experience, I recommend applying for the UC Berkeley program.
Starting a New Life at UC Berkeley
UC Berkeley is a U.S. state university located in Berkeley, Southern California. Located only an hour from San Francisco, accessibility is good, and what’s more, it has a large campus that provides an optimum academic environment for students. Moreover, as one of the top universities in the world its students and professors are passionate and their high research capabilities attract attention. When I first entered Sookmyung, I was told that Sookmyung offers students an opportunity to experience the global world, especially for outstanding students like opportunities to join a UC Berkeley exchange program and a Stanford exchange program that are supplements with scholarships. Dreaming of these programs, I investigated stories of others who had already participated in the programs and studied really hard to attain high grades. To meet program requirements, I studied TOEFL and TOEIC, did volunteering work, and participated in other extra-curricular activities. At the time of selection, only nine students were selected through a ‘special selection’ process; however, the prerequisite course, ‘Honors Class: Global Communication’ offered at Sookmyung had to be completed before being sent to Berkeley. It was a very challenging semester, and I had to face lots of problems during the entire semester. Eventually, four students dropped out of the prerequisite course even after being selected. However, it seems that the Honors Class no longer has become a prerequisite course, so I would like to strongly recommend you apply for ‘special selection’ if you meet the requirements.
The Moments I Spent in UC Berkeley
I joined the 2014 summer C session after finishing my spring semester at Sookmyung. I rushed off to Berkeley and took courses. At that time, nine students who were accepted through special selection and one student who was accepted through ‘regular selection’ went to Berkeley. Indeed, our motivation for joining the summer session at Berkeley differed greatly according; however, the desire to study at a prestigious university, to experience something outside of Korea, to spend one’s time traveling, and to experience an exotic culture with students from different backgrounds were common denominators among us.
At Berkeley, I registered for the course, ‘Psychology of Sleep,’ which is unusual as it is quite uncommon to find such a course in Korea. The course had a huge enrollment, and its grading policy included a 40% midterm, a 40% final exam, and a 20% project. Professor Jen had a clear American English accent and since all PPT slides and reading materials were uploaded on online, there was no need to buy any course books. I found information about professors at ‘Rate My Professor,’ and a significant amount of information was easily found just by googling the professor and course names. Personally, I do not recommend taking an English Literature course due to the highly intensive schedule. Students are required to read more than six books in just eight weeks, and the lecturing method differs greatly from that of Korea. On the other hand, I have really fond memories of the other course I took, ‘Gospel Chorus’ since the professor was very cheerful and there were few enrollees. I met many foreign students at there. It was worthwhile to attend this course. The performance we did at the end of the session remains as one of my precious remembrances. To sum up, all the courses I took at Berkeley were wonderful, and the professors were all respectful of students and their opinions. Thanks to this learning environment, students did not hesitate to ask questions and took active roles during classes.
Hardships I faced
Though life at Berkeley was satisfactory, I felt monetary hardships due to a lack of scholarship assistance. The U.S.A school costs are high, thus the assistance for the exchange programs should be enlarged. Two years ago, the scholarship money totaled more than five million won, but it has been reduced to just four million. In addition, lodging was stressful. Despite applying for a triple dormitory room right after receiving acceptance, I had to wait for an open space since other private language institutes already booked some of the rooms. In the dormitory, it isn’t allowed to cook and must share the bathroom with others. Nevertheless, I felt safe in the dormitory. For meals, it was compulsory to buy ‘meal points’ if one is residing at the dormitory, but sadly the food offered at the dormitory cafeteria was not that good. It would be much better for students if Sookmyung would offer some options for lodging such as sublet options.
Advice and Tips for Life at Berkeley
It is hard to provide specific advice about preparation for this program as recruitment differs every year; however try to attain high grades. Also, even though Sookmyung accepts a TOEIC score, studying TOEFL would definitely make it easier on you at a university in the U.S.A. Moreover, if you are a poor English speaker or merely lack confidence, especially in terms of discussion, take advanced courses at Sookmyung that do not focus on EFL or ESL learning or ESL courses at Berkeley which is also accepted as a regular credit in Sookmyung to raise your speaking ability. Choose something that will challenge your ability and have to attain a higher level needed in the U.S.A.
Also, if you are planning to travel, taking only one course in Berkeley’s C session will let you travel a lot – even the eastern part of U.S.A. Eight weeks can differ for each person depending on what they know, plan or do; thus, you should look for information in advance. Also, one should know that most of the administrative process should be done students themselves, and you must finish the process before the Berkeley semester starts.