International students on UC Berkeley’s reputation abroad

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As everyone knows, UC Berkeley is a very diverse school with students from all over the world. For the fall 2013 semester, international students represented 17.4 percent of incoming freshmen. In the United States, Cal is widely recognized as one of the top universities academically, but we’re also famous for liberalism, weed and hippies. The Daily Clog interviewed four international students to investigate UC Berkeley’s reputation in other countries.

Yvonne Kim

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Year: Junior

Major: Cognitive science (concentration in computational modeling) and economics

Hometown: Seoul, Korea

1. How would people in your home country describe UC Berkeley? Is it famous?

It is very well known in my country, but for some reason, in recent years, it has gotten less well known. Koreans recognize the name Berklee College of Music in Boston more than UC Berkeley, which is really sad. I’m assuming that’s because popular K-pop stars have gone to Berklee.

2. Which major is UC Berkeley most known for?

Chemistry, math and engineering are well known in Korea, but generally Koreans think that any major is good if the college in general is considered “good.”

3. What do people internationally think about UC Berkeley’s “hippies and weed” reputation?

A lot of my friends and family were genuinely concerned when I decided to attend Berkeley. They would refer to the university as “Bezerkeley” and would ask me to reconsider. But those were only the people who grew up or got some sort of education in the United States. Most of my Korean friends (educated, born and raised in Korea) were not really aware of the culture at Berkeley.

4. How do UC Berkeley’s academics compare to your national universities? 

I personally think it is much, much better in terms of the extent of exploration that can be done, people you will meet and world-famous faculty members that you will get to learn from. Also, in Berkeley, if you wish, you can reach out to different research opportunities and even take grad classes. But in Korea, you have to declare your major before you decide to enroll in college. Here, you can always explore more if you want to and you can change your major after you come to college and try out different courses.

Angela Liu

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Year: Junior

Major: Political economy and French

Hometown: Taipei, Taiwan

1. How would people in your home country describe Berkeley? Is it famous?

Berkeley is very famous … a Taiwanese vocabulary staple it seems. It’s commonly referred to with the Mandarin translation “buo kuh lai.”

2. Which major is UC Berkeley most known for?

Probably for STEM (science/technology/engineering/mathematics) and business.

3. What do people internationally think about Berkeley’s “hippies and weed” reputation?

More so of a “hippie” rep than a “weed” rep, partially because college subculture isn’t really as emphasized in Taiwan. When comparing college campuses/lifestyles, Taiwanese colleges seem a lot more homogenous, compared to the diversity you’d observe amongst American colleges, and people are generally more conservative, especially when it comes to drugs/partying.

4. How do UC Berkeley’s academics compare to your national universities? 

Honestly, I am not one to speak for Taiwanese university education because I’m at Berkeley, but I do feel like our academics emphasize different aspects of education. For instance, Berkeley really encourages students to strive to achieve innovative excellence in their own unique field of study, while many top Taiwanese universities (seem to) focus less on that and more on being able to secure a promising job after graduation or being able to secure an acceptance to a good graduate program. For example, you’d find a lot of Berkeley undergrads as entrepreneurs, groundbreaking researchers or passionate community service leaders, while you’d find a lot of undergrads in Taiwanese universities spending their spare time preparing for Excel/programming/language certifications or graduate entrance exams. Both are great in their own ways, and I’ve met many successful people in both countries — they just carry a different perspective and a different set of tools for success.

Noriko Yamasaki

noriko

Year: Junior exchange student from Osaka University, Japan

Major: Sociology

Hometown: Bangkok, Thailand

1. How would people in your home country describe UC Berkeley? Is it famous?

Berkeley is definitely one of the most famous and favored West Coast universities among students in Thai and international schools. Berkeley is known for its esteemed student body and diverse culture. There are, in fact, a number of Thai alumni from Berkeley.

2. Which major is UC Berkeley most known for?

Berkeley is perhaps best known for its Haas business school and computer science major.

3. What do people internationally think about UC Berkeley’s “hippies and weed” reputation?

I think Berkeley’s “hippies and weed” reputation is exaggerated in the international community. Although it was present, students have the choice of whether or not to be a part of it.

4. How do UC Berkeley’s academics compare to your national universities?

I cannot speak for Thai universities, but as a student in a Japanese university, I can say that the academics in Berkeley are more student-centered learning rather than lecture-based. I think that is one of the most effective teaching methods.

Marius Gustavsen Paulsen

marius

Year: Junior

Major or class taken at UC Berkeley: Sociology

Hometown: Bergen, Norway

1. How would people in your home country describe UC Berkeley? Is it famous?

People in my home country would describe Berkeley as prestigious, famous, well known and placed high up in the ranking system when it comes to Ivy Leagues and other UCs.

2. Which major is UC Berkeley most known for?

Berkeley is most known for EECS or business, but it has the highest-placed sociology department in all of the U.S. as well.

3. What do people internationally think about UC Berkeley’s “hippies and weed” reputation?

People internationally think about the hippies and weed reputation as a thing of the area; people have heard of it, and they seem to embrace the idea with open minds.

4. How do UC Berkeley’s academics compare to your national universities?  

Berkeley is on a higher level than our national universities in a lot of areas but not in all departments. I think our humanities department is pretty strong, although I don’t go there.

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