I have this summer at the Summer Session of the UC Berkeley competition and in this framework, the Sustainability Certificate completed. So much should be said in advance: It was a great time and I would recommend the program to anyone who is interested in sustainability and has the financial means!
Information on the application process
The nice thing about the summer session is that you don’t have to apply, you can simply register. At first I thought that the courses for the certificate would be taken quickly and I would not get the courses I wanted, but that was no problem at all. Read more student reviews on Jibin123.
It is also useful that MicroEDU is an “affiliated institution”, which is why you can enroll in courses at the same time as Berkeley students (normally the application period for international students starts a little later). A special thing about me was that I did not stay in Germany in the months before the summer session. The advice and great support from MicroEDU was worth its weight in gold for the coordination with the US embassy, so that I could easily apply for my student visa from Hong Kong.
Studies and courses taken
As mentioned above, I did the Sustainability Certificate over the summer. For Berkeley students, the program is equivalent to a minor, which should actually be enough to indicate that it involves a lot of work if the program only lasts 8 weeks, but at the end you also have a small degree in the Hand holding. There were seven different courses to choose from, each comprising 2-4 units, and you had to take at least 15 units in total to receive the certificate.
I chose the courses “Climate Change Economics” (4 units), “Energy & Society” (4 units, online), “California Water” (3 units) and “Zero Energy Building” (4 units). The other courses that could be selected were “Environmental Classics”, “Water & Sanitation Justice” and “Ecology & Society” (all 3 units each).
What I found particularly great was the variety of courses. I really had the feeling that I was getting to know the topic of sustainability from all sorts of different perspectives. I’m actually studying psychology, so it was really exciting, economics, physics, architecture and engineering coursesto prove. However, the workload was correspondingly high and, especially at the beginning, I felt a bit overwhelmed by the many homework that was due every few days and the reading that had to be read in preparation (this is very different in my studies in Germany ). At the same time, this also meant that the exams at the end of the semester were not so important – or that there was no exam at all, but a final presentation (in Zero Energy Building).
I had few problems or concerns, so I hardly needed any on-site support. But there is the International Office, which has put together a program of events especially for international students during the summer sessions and is always there for you if you have any questions.
The Sustainability Program also had its own coordinator and there were a few events for participants in the program and a study room (which, however, couldn’t keep up with the architectural building, which is why I never used it).
In general, I thought it was great how personal the tutoring was.
Since I was there with my boyfriend, my experience of looking for accommodation is probably not representative, as we were not looking for a flat share, but a small studio apartment. That turned out to be quite difficult, but basically:
Berkeley is incredibly expensive. Facebook groups and Craigslist (sort of like ebay classifieds) are good places to search for ads. It is quite feasible to get hold of accommodation from Germany via Skype.
Unfortunately, I don’t know what accommodations are offered by the university, but you can certainly find something about that on the website.
Leisure and excursion possibilities
I have seldom had such a high workload as during the summer session, so that I actually hardly had time for many excursions. But Berkeley also has a lot to offer for shorter trips. If you feel like cycling, it is worth getting a road bike and exploring the Berkeley Hills or taking the ferry from Oakland via San Francisco to Angel Island, Tiburon, or Sausalito (or cycling from one of the places to the next ).
San Francisco is always worth a visit and easily accessible by metro (BART) – but also really, really expensive. Otherwise, North California is simply beautifully landscaped and you can go camping or hiking (the latter for example at Mount Tam).
General do’s & don’ts
There is absolutely no need to be afraid of not making a connection. With me everyone was super open and open-minded. You shouldn’t put yourself under pressure linguistically either – Americans are usually very quickly impressed by the English they speak.
Another don’t: Make yourself too crazy about the workload.
Another do: Enjoy the time, even if it is expensive – it is such a great experience that you will certainly not regret having plundered your savings account for it later.