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‘Very student-oriented’: Students reflect on study abroad experiences

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BEN MEFFORD | STAFF

Whether hoping to improve their language skills, broaden their understanding of international affairs or explore their interests from a different perspective, Berkeley study abroad students report gaining rich knowledge and experiences from their travels outside of the United States.

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APRIL 05, 2022

Bay Area native Aditi Sharma knew when she went to Europe for her 13th birthday that she wanted to someday study abroad. This semester, she decided to leave her home for a new experience abroad at the University of Edinburgh.

Feeling like she needed a break from the “monotone routine” of classes during the pandemic, Sharma, a UC Berkeley sophomore, embarked on her journey to Scotland with spontaneity.

“I didn’t really have any expectations for coming here which I think helped my experience,” Sharma said. “I had a vague bucket list of what I wanted to do when I was here but other than that, I was like ‘wherever life takes me, I’m willing to go with the flow.’ ”

According to Darin Menlove, vice dean of UC Berkeley Study Abroad, or BSA, the program is a “life-changing experience” for many students.

Through hundreds of different study abroad options, Menlove explained that students are supported by both professional and peer advisers to help them navigate their international experiences.

Sharma found support through the smaller, “more personalized” class sizes and consideration for student well-being while abroad. She also explained that when many students at her university contracted COVID-19, they were greatly supported by the mental health department.

“It’s very student-oriented, more than I’ve ever experienced at Berkeley, and there’s a lot more opportunity for academic growth,” Sharma said.

Sharma noted it is difficult to find affordable food options that are similar to those in Berkeley where she was located in Scotland. Despite this, she explained that one of the biggest lessons she learned from studying abroad is to adapt to the environment and experience new things for the first time.

According to Sharma, while studying abroad in Scotland may not be a very affordable option due to currency conversion rates, she said accommodations for rent were much cheaper than in Berkeley.

Menlove noted that student financial aid carries over to each BSA program and BSA also provides a variety of scholarships. Menlove added that many of the study abroad options are less expensive than studying on campus.

Campus junior Nita Sabouri also decided to study abroad, and did so to learn about Korean history and culture at Yonsei University in Seoul. 

According to Sabouri, she was able to expand her knowledge about Korean culture and history by visiting museums and learning about economics through a different country’s lens.

“I have a better understanding of economics from a non-American point of view after learning about one of the biggest Asian economies in the OECD,” Sabouri said in an email. “I also learned so much about South Korea’s rich history, from ancient times to the modern age.”

Sabouri added that during her time studying abroad, classes at Yonsei University were still online, enabling her to travel within Korea more.

Some students, such as campus junior Daniel Hyunwoo Lee, study abroad through preset programs for their area of study. Lee studied abroad in England through the Global Edge program.

According to the Global Edge website, it is an opportunity for newly admitted freshmen in the Haas Global Management Program where students must take summer classes on campus before studying abroad in London in the fall semester.

Lee noted that both his personal interests and desire to travel around Europe led him to participate in Global Edge.

“As an avid soccer fan, it was hard to pass on an opportunity that allowed me to go to England,” Lee said in an email. “As I have been wanting to travel around Europe as well, joining Global Edge … was not a difficult decision to make.”

While Lee was not faced with notable financial barriers that hindered him from enjoying his experience, he noted slight racism was “quite prevalent” while abroad in London.

However, Lee maintained that having an international education allowed him to become more independent and explained he had fun balancing his personal, social and academic life while studying abroad — an experience he often still looks back on.

Lee explained that there were many opportunities while studying abroad that are not available on campus. According to Lee, he was able to visit a museum every week for a course and took an English class taught by a professor running for England’s pro-Brexit party.

“Global Edge was undoubtedly one of the experiences of my college career, if not my life,” Lee said in an email. “I hope a lot of students consider studying abroad, especially if they are still freshmen and sophomores!”

Contact Rina Rossi at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @RinaRossi8.
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APRIL 07, 2022


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