As soon as I heard one could study abroad as a college student, I knew I wanted to study abroad. In fact, a strong study abroad program was one of my criteria in deciding where to apply to college. At UC Berkeley I would learn one could not only study abroad but also intern, work or even do research with a professor over seas. However, by the time the deadline came to sign up to study abroad during junior spring as planned, I decided not to apply. This was partly because I had worked abroad the summer after my freshman year and didn’t feel the need to, and partly because depending on your outlook and involvement, I’ve found that you can study “abroad” in Berkeley.
My main reason for studying abroad was to learn from other cultures. I was born in Hong Kong and during my childhood traveled to various countries for either my father’s business or for my figure skating career. At Berkeley, one can do this by taking a language class, joining a cultural dance organization or ethnic club or as simple as saying hi to your peers during your daily activities. You never know what a day at Berkeley will bring you.
One of my roles as a campus ambassador is to work at the front desk in the Campanile. Given that the Campanile is the third largest bell tower in the world and a “must visit” item on any prospective student or tourist’s list, you really never know who will walk through the doors.
On one particular afternoon, I felt that I had discovered the quickest way to travel the world! In just one hour working in the Campanile, I met visiting scholars from Germany, France, Ireland, Australia and Korea, practiced my spanish with visitors from Mexico and Spain, and met two girls born in the same hospital as me in Hong Kong! It was quite an adventure!!
Experiences like the one I had at work that day, I believe, are what makes Berkeley unique. At a school with 26,000 undergraduate students from various backgrounds, you never know what will come your way. In the same day, I traveled the world, by talking to the visitors, I was also given a contact to shadow a orthopedic surgeon at Stanford University. A week later, I found a director from the Berkeley Public Health Field Study Internship encouraging me to apply.
As many of my friends start to leave for their abroad programs, I am hoping to remember to stay open-minded and try to soak up all Berkeley has to offer. While I know they will be having a wonderful time abroad, against my previous plan to study abroad this upcoming spring, I am now looking forward to exploring the parts of Berkeley that I haven’t yet and be surprised by events like these.