I still remember the hot summer a year ago. Like most students, I am busy practicing English during summer vacation and preparing my passport and visa information. Time flies unconsciously, like when I was at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In the United States, my time there seemed very long, but soon I returned home, and my heart is dark. I became determined to go to the United States to study for graduate students because I saw the infinite vitality of computers in American universities. I saw the curiosity of American college students; they asked the professors for their kindness and rigorousness. That year in the United States was busy and fulfilling, and it was hard yet made me happy. From this, I have seen my gaps and my future.
In an American culture class, I made a good friend named Davy. He invited me to a small party at his place. I think it was a valuable experience because I got to see what goes on at an American party. Also, I made a friend from France named Victoria, and she always invited me to grab a tea or boba. Sometimes international students are quite lonely, by making friends with others our lives will not be so dry and full of only homework. Another “perk” of making friends is that we may gain more academic insights. For instance, I know this guy named Patrick in a Literature class about music, and we often walked on Telegraph together and chatted a lot. Before the essays were due, we would exchange papers to see if we were on the right track. Also, before the final, we would exchange notes and further discuss the meter pattern of a specific poem, its significance, and so on.
I think my way of making friends is a bit brave, but it is definitely worth a try and rewarding.
Host: University of California, Berkeley
Home: Guangdong University of Foreign Studies
Major: English (Advanced Translation and Interpreting)
1. Do you think semester abroad, summer school, or exchange can be a good way for a prospective international student to test out grad school in the United States?
YES! Study abroad provides the ideal low-stakes environment for international students to test the realities of studying abroad while developing their readiness for a graduate studies application. When facilitated through a nonprofit organization such as The Study Abroad Foundation (SAF), students also benefit from a team of support personnel during this phase of learning.
2. What may be some of the potential benefits?
Last year, we learned from our SAF program evaluations that:
SAF Scholars Improve Their Language Skills
SAF Scholars Obtain Letters of Recommendation
One of the most frequently cited benefits for study abroad students aspiring to graduate studies is the opportunity to develop personal relationships with professors and academics in their field of study. Our students aspire to develop mentorship relationships to guide them forward in their study and career pursuits, and benefit immensely from personal letters of recommendation during the graduate admission process.
SAF Scholars Fast-Track Their Transition to U.S. Graduate Studies
A proper comprehension of the nature of U.S. teaching and learning through an undergraduate study abroad program can help to fast-track a student’s transition into graduate studies. SAF Scholars gain insight into assessment methodologies in U.S. curricula, and a more evenly weighted workload over the course of a study period compared to the style they expect from their home university undergraduate experience.
SAF Scholars Gain Intercultural Fluency
Outside of the classroom, SAF Scholars receive a sampler of culture that can reduce the shock-factors of first time arrival at a graduate level. This ranges from factors of time and place, to city, climate, and culture. For example, students are often surprised at their need to adjust to U.S. housing standards, the popularity of twin, triple and quad shared rooms, and the nature of meal plans and cuisine options available here.
Edited by Erika Woodward
SAF Alumni Xiang Li is among a new generation of women in science. While studying abroad, she opened up about the challenges of being a female in a male-dominated field.
"Taking risks, choosing growth, challenging ourselves and asking for promotions—with smiles on our faces, of course— are all important elements of managing a career. Do not wait for power to be offered.”
Whether you’re preparing to study abroad for the first time or beginning another semester overseas, maximize your experience with these tips from SAF American University Alumna Rebecca Yan.
11/30 MY First American Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is the festival for harvest and being grateful for being blessed in the past year. This is my first Thanksgiving in America. As an exchange student from China, I am really excited about this special festival, because we actually don’t have a special festival for being thankful.
There are many international students like me who don’t have to go back to our family to enjoy holiday; either we choose to travel or stay. We actually have a really long holiday, from Wednesday to Sunday. Some of my friends even chose to travel to the East Coast with friends. For me, I stayed. The reason why I stayed is some of my American friends invited me to their house to enjoy the real, local Thanksgiving.
Getting together with friends for Thanksgiving has become such a precious memory for me, and I don't regret staying (local). Maybe I miss the beautiful scene of traveling, but it has been filled with all kinds of Thanksgiving food and laughter. Before the meal, we truly prayed for everyone and everything we have now. I was feeling how great we need to cherish the moments we have in everyday life. Being grateful is actually the core value of this festival and it gave me more meanings than just traveling.
After the days surrounded by the nice smelling of pumpkin and turkey, here comes the “Dead Week”. Have you recovered from the holiday and are you ready for finals?
10/19 Midterm madness Gives Way to Monterey
I never thought a midterm could be so intense like what I have just been through! The competitiveness here is a burden, but also an opportunity to push you to make progress. The days [I spent] studying in Moffitt Library have already left a strong impression on me and will be an important memory of my study abroad experience for years to come. Studying at the library until 1 a.m. is something I have never done in my home university, even during finals week. (Berkeley offers a library, with room for resting, that you can stay all night in.) Even when I left the library, there were still many students still studying with full concentration.
What I have learned from this cruel midterm is never study alone! Keep in touch with the professor and GSI, send emails or ask questions during office hours. No matter what kind of way, solve all your questions before the midterm. Start reviewing as early as possible. Full preparation is the best way to disaggregate your burden before exams. Definitely, midterm period is tough and tiring! But it’s also a good reflection for period learning, which reminds you to make adjustments for the future.
Having experienced the first midterm in Berkeley, I was feeling so tired and stressed. I urgently needed a break. A trip was definitely the best choice. Driving one hour towards south, we arrived in a very beautiful city near the Pacific Ocean----Monterey. We were so lucky that the weather that day was so great for hiking. The blue sea and sky almost melted together, looking at the scene like that. I was healed by the nature. I can’t stop praising the power of the creator and telling myself I cherish every second of my life.
9/19 My First Month Milestones
I can’t imagine that I have been in California for a month. The day I was in Hong Kong airport feels just like yesterday. The past month could be the most colorful and life-changing experience for me.
I learned how to get around town
Berkeley is a university town near San Francisco, which is a 30 minutes drive away. “Bart” is the most convenient transportation connecting the whole Bay Area. For the reason that I arrived ahead of the program beginning time, I couldn’t take the shuttle SAF offered. But it’s easy to take Bart from SFO airport to Downtown Berkeley where the university located.
I learned how to be brave and ask for help -- in English
Thanks to some of my American friends living in Berkeley, I stayed in their apartment for a night. I have to say that most of the Americans I have met they are so friendly and willing to offer help to strangers. Not only my friends, but also the Bart staff, passersby who showed me the way, and the staff of SAF. If it’s the first time you have been in America, just be brave to ask for help if you need. Don’t worry about your language; they won’t laugh at your accent or grammar. Being brave to talk could be the most important thing for your journey and daily life.
I learned how to navigate a different approach to academics abroad
UC Berkeley offers every student an orientation which almost explains everything you need to know in the future, including academic and basic life tips. And teachers and assistants are willing to help you solve your problems/answer questions -- just feel free to email them. The first week is actually a little bit tiring for every student, because you have to take part in many courses you are interested in and then make decisions about whether the course is appropriate for you to enroll in. Even though we don’t have the priority to choose whatever courses we want, there are still many choices for us exchange students. I major in Finance at my home university, so I have chosen two courses from Haas Business School which is a very outstanding business school in the world. Even though I only take half the number of courses here, compared to the number of courses in my home university, I still feel fulfilled -- and some pressure -- from the coursework. Maybe it’s a result of language barriers or a different learning system, but it reminds me that I have to devote more time to my studying, which also means that I could learn more.
I learned how to make the most of my time as an SAF Scholar
Many of my friends ask me how long I will stay here. I answer:“ one semester”. They always reply : ”That’s so short, but make it count !” Yes! They are right! Just make it count.
Here’s the beautiful view of Haas!
Host: University of California, Berkeley
Home: South China University of Technology
Major: Advertising, Finance
10/15 MY Reflections on an Unforgettable Summer
This summer, I applied for a six-week academic program at UCLA Summer Session C. During this period, I completed eight credits, including four credits of principles of accounting (ii) and finance. What I have learned most from this academic project is the difference between China and Western countries from various aspects, including study and life.
As for academic study, our relations with the professor are more equal. Professors will pay special attention to the whole class and patiently answer questions from each student. The local students are always active. Although it is only a six-week course, the content is the same as those in one semester. There are many personal and group assignments. Teamwork is also very common.
I wanted to exercise communication skills and joined a group of native English speakers. During the process, you can find everyone involved in this assignment. I also engaged in the whole process and helped to revise our work. Most of all, I really appreciated my team members for helping me polish up my part of the paper. As for the result, I got As in two classes!
During this period, I met a Japanese girl who attended the same class with me and established a profound friendship. We went to Disneyland together. In addition, I went on a three-day trip to San Francisco, the financial center of California, where the city was very busy. There were homeless people along the road and rainbow flags, all of which are part of the culture of San Francisco.
In the fifth week, I was especially homesick. So I made a DIY hotpot with my roommates and took a taxi to the night market near Chinatown to eat BBQ and feel the taste of my hometown. Our American friends tried our hot pot and praised it a lot. Some feelings are the same around the world.
I felt that this exchange was very meaningful to me. This was the first time I went out of the country and went to a strange country alone. I lived alone for a month and a half, but I lived a very fulfilling life every day. On the one hand, I had a very compact academic schedule. On the other hand, many differences in life forced me to quickly respond and adapt to them.
I miss the experience so much. I have been back for one month. Nowadays, I am working on the application for a graduate program. I hope that I can remember these days at UCLA which made my life different!
9/11 My Labor Day Weekend Getaway
our Last week, I experienced the Labor Day weekend. Outlets, Disneyland and Night market made my week! I will explain them as follows. On September 1, I went to Disneyland with my Japanese friend Nagisa. We met each other during the Finance class this summer and became good friends. She is my first foreign friend and I cherish our friendship a lot! We spent whole day in Disneyland and visited all the attractions. Moreover, we saw the incredible Fantasy Show at night. Disney’s fairy tale characters and plots were mapped to a water fountain. I was totally shocked. Although it was a tiring trip, we enjoyed a lot and got to know each other better. During Labor Day weekend, I went to the Outlets and the 626 Night Market with my roommates. We bought gifts for our parents and friends in China. Due to Labor Day, most of the shops had sales. Girls from anywhere love shopping very much. After such a nice shopping day, we went to the 626 Night Market next to Chinatown. To be honest, we both miss Chinese food very much. This night market was first built by some people from Taiwan. We met lots of foreigners there and enjoyed the delicious food. Photos below! Next week, we will try to DIY Chinese hotpot! I am looking forward to the cooking time! In the meantime, I am fighting for the final exams which will come soon. See you at the next blog post!
8/30 I'm Winning at Midterms
Busy week for midterms! Time flies. I have been at UCLA for three weeks. Half of the summer session has passed, and I experienced my first midterm exam and group assignment. As for the midterm exam in America, what is different is that here we can bring one piece of paper in case we forget the formulas. Fortunately, I got a great score due to my hard work in my Finance class. Moreover, I experienced my first group discussion with local students. They made a reservation in the Young Research Library, where the facilities are quite convenient. Those people are really nice and patient. I am happy to be involved in such an international group. At first, I was a little shy. But with their courage and help, I became more familiar with this pattern and made much progress during this process. I am really appreciative of my group peers and nice professors! Next target is the final! In the meantime, I'm exploring all that Los Angeles has to offer:
8/23 My MEMORABLE Bus Tour of San Francisco
Thanks for the help of SAF, I have been in UCLA for two months. Everything in UCLA and Los Angeles is perfect in my mind. To be more specific, I am strongly enamored by the breathtaking view around the city and the study atmosphere on campus. I will definitely recommend the summer experience in UCLA to my friends.
Last weekend, I went to San Francisco for a three-day trip via USA student tour. The appealing views such as Twin Peaks and Golden Gate Bridge really attract me a lot. The most memorable of all is the skyline of San Francisco which we saw twice from Treasure Island and Twin Peaks. Both of the night view and the day view are beautiful scenery, although the weather is a little foggy.
Moreover, we also enjoyed the food in fishermen’s wharf, the bustling scene in the financial district and familiar feeling in Chinatown.
Last but not the least, I really appreciate our tour guide Michael and driver Jimmy who were so friendly and humorous. Michael taught us a lot about the history and system of United States and secured our safety all the time. He also encouraged us to experience American culture and be brave to think and practice in English.
Thanks for this enjoyable trip! I think the photos of mine will tell more of the great trip!
Home: Central University of Finance and Economics 中央财经大学
My hometown is Zhuhai which is a seaside city next to Macau. My major is accounting. My research interest is about auditing and financing management. As for personal interests, I have played piano for 12 years. And after learning volleyball in university, I like it so much. Moreover, I enjoy watching movies, travelling and making friends. I really appreciate SAF for helping me get the chance to experience campus life at UCLA. This 6-weeks' experience will definitely be my lifelong memory. I want to share my story and true feelings with other students who also have the dream of studying abroad. If my blogs could help others, I will be very happy. Sharing may change the world!
10/2 Top 3 Things I Learned at UCLA
This is a leaving entry I wrote on my plane back to China, after my summer session at UCLA. There are so many things I want to talk about. In general, this has been a great study abroad experience.
First, classes are really intense. Even it’s just summer session, UCLA requires that you understand what they always teach during normal quarters. Professors all have different habits but they are all concerned about you. They all have multiple office hours. You may go and ask them questions during their office hours. You may also email them your questions even if it’s not their office hours. During classes, you may ask questions as long as there are some things you don’t understand. Professors always clarify them for you. One thing you should know is the syllabus is always the most important for every class. It has all the important information you need and all the important deadlines you need.
Second, life at UCLA is super convenient. Although it’s in summer session, you can also enjoy the fantastic dining service. During normal semesters, UCLA has nine open cafeterias serving food from all over the world. There is also a fantastic gym which is open 24 hours a day during the week. Swimming pools are also available. Housing buildings are also comfortable. There is a study hall in our building, and also a study lounge, on every floor, which is bright and perfect for self study.
Third, U.S. students are welcome and kind. They really helped me a lot during my stay in the United States. Whenever I have questions about classes or exams, they always answer my questions patiently, and give me as many details as possible.
In a word, I’m totally looking forward to going back again!
9/6 Art and Artisan Noodles
Classes and quizzes continue as usual. However, we made it to Hammer Museum. It’s such a wonderful museum, showing amazing artwork of the best artists. It’s my first time to see a real Vincent Willem van Gogh painting ever! It’s really mindblowing and beautiful. And the museum’s slogan is “Good for free”. I have to say the museum is totally worthy of those words. Even the walls there are full of art. After Hammer Museum, we had froyo which is really delicious. We also went to an amazing Japanese Ramen restaurant. The Ramen is just so good that I can hardly find any words to describe it, and as usual the service was fantastic. Here is a simple suggestion: Guys, studying abroad is not a joke. Please work hard. There are much more things to do than in China.
8/27 My Week of Contrasts
Taking an open-note midterm
Last week was kind of a tough week. I had a midterm exam. This was an open note exam -- I never thought we could actually bring notes to a math exam. Although it’s open note, the exam was still hard. It really tests how you understand the course, not only how well you can make calculations. I think the main difference between Chinese university courses and U.S. university courses is that in the United States the professor will provide you with everything they have, and when testing you really need to make sure you understand the course, not only how to calculate. One important thing I learned here is that American students also work really hard. And they don’t work hard for an exam or for their parents -- they just work hard from the bottom of their heart. They love what they are doing.
Exploring LA as Shanghainese sophisticate
I explored LA a little bit: Hollywood, Universal Studios, Griffith Observatory and Beverly Hills. They are really beautiful. The good service and hospitality really impress me. My favorite is Universal Studios, where they built a Harry Potter Wizarding Land. I got myself a wand there, drinking the pumpkin juice, eating the jumping chocolate frog. I truly had a great time. Santa Monica is where I visit the most. It’s quite a cute place. Although it’s not as fancy as Shanghai’s shopping malls, the music covering every corner of the street every night and the passion it has makes you feel as though you just couldn’t love it more.
Attending an American birthday party and lunch with a professor
This week, I also got invited to a birthday party for my American roommate. That night was fun, and I got to know how U.S. citizens celebrate their birthday. The most interesting experience I had was with a professor I accidentally met at a Starbucks in Santa Monica. She is going to teach in China, so she needed some help to prepare for her trip. So, I helped to advise her and ease the stress of her confusions and anticipated problems. In order to thank me, she invited to me to UCLA Faculty Center and her house for lunch. UCLA Faculty Center is just so beautiful, quiet and elegant. It’s definitely a pure joy if you can have meals there everyday. Her house is beautiful, and her's is the first American house I have ever visited. Thanks to my roommates’ advice, I brought a carrot cake for the lunch. The Professor was really glad I brought a cake and the cake was also really delicious. I really love my roommates! I hope we can be friends forever.
8/17 My First DAys at UCLA
Arriving in Los Angeles
I arrived in Los Angeles on August 6, and with the help from SAF, I got to school without any difficulty. I was really impressed by how beautiful UCLA is and how passionate and helpful everybody is. Fortunately, I got two American roommates which really helps me get to know more about American life. They are also really hospitable and kind. I’m also invited to one of my roommate's birthday [party] which will be on August 24.
Presenting to the class
Classes are also cool. As requested, I signed up for two classes. Each class has a syllabus from which we can clearly see what we are learning and what we’ll get by the end of the class. You also have a clear deadline which helps you plan your days at UCLA well. The professors are so kind. They just don’t care about how your English is and whether your answer is correct or not. The only thing they care [about] is if you are fully participating in the class. But of course, during exams, answers matter. And the professors will explain everything clearly and patiently.
Once I went up [to the front of the class] to present how a problem is solved. It was kind of an easy one, but my English is just not good enough for me to present fluently. The classmates just waited for me to finish my presentation patiently and even applauded for me after finishing. It’s just so warm.
Eating at the cafeteria
Cafeterias are also good. They change the menu every day. The workers there are so kind. And, the words on their shirts are impressive, ”Good food. Good time. Good life.”, which can not be felt in China. But don’t expect too much of American food; Chinese cook the best food.
Moving into the dorms
Dorms are just so comfortable that I felt like I’m living in a five-star hotel. The housekeepers are so hard-working and polite that you just feel like you are home. Now, I just hope 2017 UCLA Summer Session C never ends.
Home: East China Normal University
From Jinan, the capital of China's Shandong province, one SAF Scholar reveals how he adapted to American campus culture.
1. I dared to communicate with my classmates and foreign friends
As expected, the first trouble I experienced was with the English language. I really learned English for the needs of daily life before, but I found that the English which I had learned did not satisfy the specialized area. I could not even understand what the teacher spoke in the language classes. However, I believed the summer session would improve my English if I tried my best to study. Past experience has proved my success. I insisted on learning English everyday during the summer session, and dared to communicate with my classmates and foreign friends. Soon my English greatly improved.
2. I relied on support from fellow Chinese students
The second trouble was relationships between people who come from different countries, because they might have absolute different opinions. Knowing how to get on well with the Western people was also one of the biggest challenges. Thanks to the large number of Chinese students there, I felt close to the Chinese students and we students helped each other. My experience shows that the best way to get on with the Western people is by being polite to them. They would not feel the distance between the Chinese person who always keeps smiling in every way.
Host: University of California, Berkeley
Home: School of Nuclear Science and Technology Lanzhou
Edited by Erika Woodward
8/28 An Exciting Trip to Taronga Zoo
After a stressful studying period, my friends and I decided to go to visit Taronga Zoo. Australia is very famous for its lovely kangaroos and koalas. Therefore, it was such a great experience for us to get close to those animals and relax ourselves. On August 27, we got up early in the morning and took a bus to the harbor. Then we transferred for a ferry and arrived at Taronga Zoo after about 20 minutes. Taronga Zoo was located not very far away from the Sydney Opera House and was built on a small hill on an island. It was my first time to visit a zoo which was located on a hill, and we even need to take a telpher to get to the entrance of the zoo. Then we started our fantastic trip with watching a few shows presented by those animals. That was really exciting! Even though there were all kinds of lovely animals, such as koalas, giraffes, wombats and so on, I loved the platypus most, which is a unique species existing in Australia. It was so strange because it had four webbed feet and a bill, but it belonged to the mammal species. A platypus may look cuddly, but don't plan on making one a pet. After about five hours visiting we ended our trip and came back to UNSW. Honestly, I really enjoyed this trip! In my opinion, having a short trip during a period of busy study is really a good choice to relax our brains and broaden our horizons. So you can also try it!
Host: University of New South Wales
Home: Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics 江西财经大学
SAF Scholars and Alumni