my name is Johanna, I am 26 years old and have been living as a professional au pair in San Francisco since the end of March 2009. Before I came here, I successfully completed an apprenticeship as a state-recognized educator in Germany as well as a Bachelor of Art in social work at the University of Kassel. During my studies in Germany I already worked twice in Uganda in an orphanage and once in Sri Lanka in a home for the disabled. So it wasn’t new for me to go abroad. As part of the professional au pair program, 6 credits must be achieved. I thought it would be an excellent idea, in addition to my nanny job, to have the opportunity to attend the summer session at UC Berkeley before starting my master’s degree in Germany.
Of course, the idea was basically very good, but I would advise against it in retrospect. Because in order to be able to finance the summer session, I worked 50-60 hours a week. So it was extremely difficult to find a course for me that I could attend in time. I can only recommend the advice of MicroEDU. There were no problems with the visa as I had decided on only one course (Practice in social work at Sevaughn Banks) with 3 credits.
However, it was difficult for me to reconcile my 50-60 hour week and the high workload at UC Berkeley. So I mostly had to prepare for the lecture at night. Homework was very often asked for in addition to the usual scope of work. I also had to conduct an interview with a social worker, write an exam, do two homework, write a help plan for a client and create a genogram. With a lot of diligence I managed to get a very good grade, but the stress was very high and I didn’t have the opportunity to get a feel for student life and the campus. Likewise, I did not have the opportunity to use the university’s many leisure activities and for this reason I cannot provide any further information. Read more student reviews on Educationvv.
However, I found it very pleasant not to have to worry about where I live and how I get to university. That was a clear advantage for me because I had the great luxury of living in my little villa of the au pair family and being provided with everything I needed for university. So I was able to drive to the university in my own car and didn’t have to worry about the costs for books, etc., as these were taken over by the parents of the au pair family.
The course itself was very informative and an experience that I wouldn’t want to miss. The two lecturers were extremely helpful and very interested in answering questions and making the lecture interesting. The lecture was structured fundamentally different from the one I know from Germany. Everything was designed more openly and cooperation was required to a high degree. The lecturers tried very hard to keep us happy with small sketches, for example. The lecture was also very practical so that we often had small assignments and had to work in groups. Since most of the students already knew each other and I was the only one in this course who didn’t know anyone, it was not discussed further and it was difficult to make contacts at the beginning.
So I found the two months at UC Berkeley extremely exhausting, but I don’t want to miss this experience in my life. But I would like to warn you that it is really very, very exhausting to work so much on the side and call this into your consciousness. It was a unique opportunity for me, but at the same time a shame that I was able to enjoy my time in Berkeley more.
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA BERKELEY
What do you expect when you go to Berkeley for the Summer Session? It was clear to me: at the end of my studies I wanted to enjoy the opportunity to improve my perfect English… Well, that’s why I drove over there, but mainly about finding out what it is like at the end of my student career one of the top addresses for universities in the United States to learn and live. Is it really that the conditions are that good? And do the students tend to walk around with books or surfboards under their arms, where we are in California? Admittedly, San Francisco doesn’t always promise the best weather, but there will be a bit more to be gained in summer. I was also curious to see where in the world the students made the pilgrimage to Berkeley for the summer session.
So, together with my fellow student Mark, I sat down at the computer in February and we researched how expensive all the fun would be. From reports from friends who had been there a year earlier, we knew roughly what was in store, so our budget of a few thousand dollars was found to be sufficient.
When we arrived, we were overwhelmed: Park-like facilities, state-of-the-art buildings and, above all, sports facilities that have never been seen before! The location of the university is typically American: if you walk 2 blocks south, you are in the poorest district of the city. That’s why the first present on the introductory day was a whistle that you can use to call the cops on the street at night in an emergency. Not a problem for us, however, as we got to know dozens of people very quickly, so we were never alone, day or night.
The lessons were very structured and labor-intensive. In marketing, it was ultimately about drawing up a business plan in a group for a fictitious product that they thought up themselves and presenting it professionally in front of the class. In preparation for this, the theory was taught in a typical American teaching style: in discussions, homework and a final multiple-choice test. It was similar in business communication: preparing and giving speeches, learning to discuss, writing and correcting business letters, and finally a group presentation. The professors were very nice, willing to talk, open to discussions and open to new approaches. You could tell that it was also a challenge for her to work with students from all over the world.
The students we met at Berkeley came from all over the place. Half of Europe was represented, India, China,… America of course. It was really unbelievable how many different people you got to know. This created a very intensive and sustainable network, so that we are still in contact today.
Together with all the other students we lived in the Residence Hall, a large student residence with 2, 3 and 4-bed rooms. Relatively sparsely furnished, but with everything you need. Relatively varied food was provided by a buffet (2x per day included in the price of accommodation), or you could walk 2 blocks further to one of the various restaurants, pizzerias, fast food shops, etc., where there was also inexpensive food. The nightlife in student residences is usually active, so we didn’t have to worry about employment. However, there are strict rules regarding the consumption of alcohol, but since we were all over 21 this was not a problem for us.
The supporting program was provided by the resident assistants, resident students who lived with us in the dormitory. Whether clubbing in San Francisco, sports programs, video evenings, parties, skydiving… Almost everything was offered. San Francisco, next to Hamburg probably the most beautiful city in the world, could easily be reached by train or bus (even for free) in 30 minutes. There was really a lot to discover (to shop) and all kinds of people to see. But we didn’t stop at other sights in the western United States either. We could see Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, Los Angeles and Highway No. 1 see what rounded off the whole trip.
Overall, this stay was a brilliant thing. So if you want to make an interesting trip to a top university, provided you have the spare change, you can’t go wrong with this program! It didn’t hurt me… So have fun!