Sixiong Peng is a Chinese student studying in Japan, and is a graduate of the Berkeley Haas Global Access Program, which brings international students from diverse backgrounds to study business and entrepreneurship. This post originally appeared on his personal blog. It has been edited for clarity and length.
Coming to Berkeley, I was unsure of how my own background would fit in with the rest of the students, program, and surrounding areas. I went in with the motivation to improve my business knowledge and awareness, but what I got out of it were four things that proved to be much more than this.
1) Improved English Language Skills
Sixiong Peng at the BHGAP closing ceremony, alongside program co-director Alex Budak.
By participating in class and doing the homework, I felt that my ability to read, write, and listen in English had become better to some extent. two to three hours of listening and concentrating on the professor's words, answering in English and discussing group work with other classmates all helped develop my English proficiency.
Since improving English proficiency was one of my major objectives of studying abroad, I also participated in a language exchange program at Berkeley, known as LEP. I was paired with other students while being taught English by a professor. I did not get specific feedback on my English in class, so I used LEP to review my essays and correct them, and get advice on how to talk in specific situations. Besides this, I traveled with classmates and listened to guest speakers, etc. As a result, I strengthened my ability to understand English and I gained confidence, a skill that is maybe the most important for language learning.
2) Building Business Knowledge
Throughout my classes, I learned new business finance and marketing strategies, specifically in technology management. In a world where technology is quickly progressing, it was interesting to learn about things like artificial intelligence and applying it to the business world, in ways that I could not even think of in the first place. It was my first time learning about business systematically, and I felt it was very satisfying and practical. I was pleased with the amount that I learned, although it was a lot of information crunched into four months. I hope to use this newfound knowledge in some way outside of my studies.
3) Changes in Thinking
Before studying abroad, I had a fixed mindset that was reflective of Japan’s culture: change is not talked about or ever encouraged. I thought that I was comfortable with this mindset, but what I discovered was that I didn’t need to feel this way. Something that I heard while studying at Haas was, "It is risky not to take risks," and to question the status quo , which is something that explains Haas and UC Berkeley’s emphasis on being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I feel that this will affect my own career after returning to Japan. Also, by connecting with my generation in a foreign country, I began to feel a sense of crisis as a Japanese college student. To explain, I think that Japanese people do not have the custom to question things or come up with new ideas. I would like to utilize this way of thinking even after my return home, and share with the rest of my friends and family my new insights about American culture and how to best apply it to daily life in Japan.
4) A Strong Global Network
There are 70 students from 15 countries participating in BHGAP, and it seems that it will continue expanding rapidly in the future. Creating acquaintances from these countries was good for me, as I am someone who wants to do projects overseas in the future. There are not many opportunities to meet classmates from so many different countries, so I feel that the network in BHGAP is very good. There are also opportunities to get to know Berkeley students even outside the program, and some people want to find employment in Japan in the future, so we were able to make connections about Japan. In addition, Silicon Valley attracts outstanding people whom I would not have met in Japan. I am so excited about these prospects.
I would like to take advantage of what I learned here even after I get back to Japan. Despite the brevity of my stay, I can say without a doubt that the abilities and skills that I gained through BHGAP will give me a unique advantage in not only the business world, but life in general.