Study Abroad Feature: Asia and Europe

Midterms, job recruitment, paperwork, and course prerequisites- there is always one reason or another that make people want to, but ultimately do not study abroad. Blocking out the noise inside your head can sometimes be difficult; on any given day, we have between 50,000-70,000 thoughts. It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and travels miles away to live in an unknown place for half a year.

Like many Haas students, I myself had some reservations about studying abroad. How do I show my personality through a Skype interview? Can I still graduate on time? All these worries subsided and I went ahead and did it anyways. As Nike says, just do it!

We’re trained in school to think logically and methodically. But sometimes, you shouldn’t have to weigh out your opportunity costs that seriously. I hope that by reading about these other amazing Haas student’s stories, you will seriously give studying abroad a chance.

C3R2X9 Barcelona, Park Guell By Architect Antoni Gaudi

Damon Laguna
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Program: CEA Barcelona

Can you share why you chose to study abroad?
I think it was when I realized that there wasn’t going to be another time in my life where I can go to a country and live there for an extended period of time without any responsibilities. I’ve never left the continent so having the opportunity to travel was very intriguing to me.

What made it a memorable experience?
You hear about the places, you read about them, but when you’re actually there, it’s so different.  You appreciate it so much more. Everything over there is so old compared to the US- here, history is hundreds of years old, but in Europe, we’re talking thousands of years old.

Looking back now, what was a major takeaway from your time abroad?
I realized I learned something new every day- I learned a lot about myself. I felt very fortunate to have grown up in a place (America) where I have so much opportunity and not take that for granted. It was in Prague when I realized this; I looked around and saw that people grow up in the city and they generally stay there. It really made me appreciate the mobility that California and USA gave me.

Any tips on what to consider when you choose a place?
Think about what factors are most important to you. I chose Barcelona because I took four years of Spanish in high school. The weather was great and it was an easy place to fly from which was a major bonus. Also, don’t be constrained by just opportunities with UCEAP. I actually went through CEA and my credits counted towards Haas too.

12031382_10153116452683483_811440323665515544_o                                                                                                                                             Photo courtesy of Soo Song
Soo Song
Location: Hong Kong SAR
Program: UCEAP, Hong Kong University

When did you realize you wanted to study abroad?
It was actually the day the application was due. I have always been interested in going abroad, but I never got around to filling out the app and fully committing to it. I actually entered Berkeley as a Linguistic major, and I just really love learning about people; studying abroad was kind of a way for me to intersect all those things.

I also really needed to get out of the Berkeley bubble. While it might seem that it seems kind of strange in hindsight since I studied abroad during the first semester of getting into Haas, it was an ideal time for me because I needed it.

What is the Berkeley bubble that you mention?
It’s a one-track mindset. When you’re surrounded by people who are extremely high achievers- sometimes in a good way and sometimes in narrow-minded way, you tend to forget how big the world is and how small you are. The Berkeley bubble is a bubble full of very intellectually bright people but limited in recognizing that this bubble isn’t the center of the world. We have so many places and people in the world and I think that the Berkeley community needs to know that.

What is a tip for people to capture their memories abroad?
I committed to writing everything down and I think that decision was the best I’ve made. Actually I had a private blog shared with my 4 best friends and I wrote everything in there. My highlight, my daily routine, my really low moments when I first came, the great food I was eating, and my travels. I made a commitment to recording every experience and person I met which made the whole journey abroad almost feel like a story.

Would you go back again?
In a heartbeat. But one thing to take note of is that study abroad isn’t glamorous all the time. I had struggles with being misidentified. People questioned my cultural identity abroad that I never had in America and it bothered me a lot. I was so used to communicating and being fully understood in America that the language and culture barrier in Hong Kong was discouraging at time. It was a humbling experience to say that least. Eventually, I got a grasp of the city and met locals that took me to experience the local’s perspective of the city. These pockets of memories  slowly but surely shaped Hong Kong into becoming home to me.

You’ve now heard two study abroad stories from Haas students that have had eye-opening experiences during their semester abroad. Now it’s time for you to make your own!

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