When you think of California, you usually first think of sun, beach, sea, surfing and a relaxed summer. If this is the ulterior motive when choosing a postgraduate degree in California, one should refrain as soon as possible from applying for the International Diploma Programs (IDP) at the UC Berkeley Extension. The IDP is by no means a program that you complete “on the side”, but a time-consuming program that, however, as you would expect in Berkeley, offers high-quality teaching.
I took the IDP in Finance myself and was very satisfied with the program overall. In the three and a half months, UC Berkeley Extension tries to teach the majority of the material that one learns in an MBA course. The short time therefore makes the program very intensive. Even if you already have good previous knowledge of finance, the large number of assignments, group work, presentations, quizzes as well as midterm and final exams ensure that you not only spend most of the evenings but also most of the weekends of the semester studying and also around one or the other night shift can’t get around. Read more student reviews on Andyeducation.
However, for those who are interested in finance and are willing to work hard, the program is consistently recommended. The finance program comprises a total of ten subjects (including corporate finance, business valuation, portfolio management and international finance), three to four of which run in parallel and some of which build on one another. The course sizes in the IDP are on average 15-25 students (for me there were 25 in the finance course) and the material is taught in a very practical way,which is a very good addition, especially for students from German universities, where the focus is often more on theory than on practical application. Examples of practical relevance are case studies, portfolio simulations, company valuations and analyzes or a very good Excel course that deals with financial modeling in Excel.
With small exceptions, the lessons take place daily (Mon-Fri) and usually last three or six hours. The entire program includes around 240 hours of instruction, with attendance being compulsory. Most of the instructors in the finance program are very nice and usually not only have very good theoretical knowledge in their field, but also often have a lot of practical experience and a very interesting background. The climate in the classroom is quite relaxed. In addition to the professors, there are also numerous other contacts in the IDP for problems of any kind. So the support is very good.
In addition to the very good content, the biggest specialty of the program is the international component. Because the students come from all over the world, you not only learn a lot in general about other cultures, but above all you can gain valuable experience in working with students from different origins in the numerous group work and projects. Since actually only open-minded students who also like to get to know new people and cultures attend this program, you can make friends very quickly. The cohesion within the course and also between the various courses of the IDP was unique.
With regard to accommodation, there is either the option of choosing one of the student residences or of looking for your own apartment or a room in a shared apartment. I got a room in a shared apartment from the university using the “Housing Application” form that you can submit with your application and lived there with another IDP student from the marketing course. However, you shouldn’t expect too much from brokered apartments. The house and the apartments are not in an excessive condition but rather a bit old and partly in need of renovation. For a few months, however, you can get along well there. The apartments are also fully equipped with everything you need in everyday life. In the house in which I lived, most of the apartments were rented to IDP students, so you quickly got to know your roommates and a good shared apartment was formed.
A flat share with a rent of around $ 900 per month is not cheap, but you will hardly find anything cheaper in Berkeley. The rental price level is generally very high. The dormitories are even more expensive (but have food included). However, the rooms there are very small and the way to the classrooms is further (approx. 20 minutes on foot compared to 5 minutes from the apartment). In retrospect, I was therefore very satisfied with the choice of the apartment and would definitely choose it again.
Berkeley as a city itself is shaped by the university and student life. In addition to the huge and beautiful university campus and a few streets with cafes, pubs, restaurants and cinemas around the university, Berkeley itself doesn’t have much to offer. For recreational activities, people usually go to San Francisco. This is especially true for the nightlife, as Berkeley has almost no clubs. Downtown San Francisco can be reached by subway (BART) from Berkeley Downtown in around 20 minutes (one way around $ 4).
If you are planning sightseeing and recreation in your semester and want to explore California and the western United States, you should plan a few extra weeks before the program or after graduation. There won’t be much time for this during the program because, as described, you won’t be able to avoid working on weekends as well. Exceptions are weekends that are extended due to public holidays.
The intensity of the program is certainly a small drawback, as San Francisco and the surrounding area really have a lot to offer and you can’t do as much as you might like. Still, studying at Berkeley was a great time for me. In terms of content, it exceeded my expectations and was a perfect addition to my finance studies in Frankfurt. I also made many new friends from all over the world, was able to gain a lot of new experiences, improve soft skills with regard to group work and presentations, improve my English skills, broaden my horizons and really had a lot of fun.
So I can only recommend the IDP. For me it was definitely worth the tuition fees, which for German standards certainly seem very high at first glance.