Through a global partnership with the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, students from Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) studied at UC Berkeley this semester as part of the Startup Semester study abroad program in order to learn about entrepreneurship and technology while growing their global networks. Read more about the girls’ experience at SCET below!
From left to right: Yi-Hsuan Liu (HKBU), Jinhee Mun (UNIST), Hoi Ting Tsang (Joyce) (HKBU), Jieni Li (HKBU), Jiat Yin Ting (HKBU), Xinlin Hu (HKBU).
Why did you choose to participate in Startup Semester?
Yi-Hsuan: I was really interested in the program because my studies at HKBU have an entrepreneurship focus! My goal for the semester was to kick-start a project that I could later continue in Hong Kong. More specifically I was interested in Product Design and enjoyed learning about the iteration process. I hope to bring learnings when I go back and join a startup.
Jieni: My background is in social sciences and economics, but I was not interested in pursuing a research path, as many people in my major do. I wanted to take actions that allow me to apply my knowledge. In Hong Kong, although there aren’t as many people are interested in startups, there are still opportunities. I wanted to attend Startup Semester to learn more about the real-life market research process, and more broadly about how Berkeley students approach problem-solving.
Jiat: Coming from a science background, business was something completely new to me. When I saw the opportunity to learn more about it and, more importantly, learn about entrepreneurship, I took the chance and signed up. Being equipped with this field of knowledge could benefit me in the long run whenever I have an idea that I want to make into a real business.
What were some challenges you initially faced at the program and how did you overcome them?
Joyce: I think the most challenging thing I had to learn was figuring out how to communicate effectively. Because Startup Semester put us in situations outside of your comfort zone, I was put in teams with many engineers. It was hard at first to communicate my ideas to these engineers because I think differently from them: I concentrated on the human/customer side, while they were focused on realistic implementations and goals. Over time, however, I learned that the best way to talk to them was to emphasize logic and provide clarity with step-by-step instructions. This was extremely important for me to learn, and will definitely enhance my communication skills in the workplace.
Xinlin: One thing I noticed is that there is a different style of interacting with people in the US as compared to Hong Kong. Here, people are more direct and appreciate differences in opinion more, as it helps gather more information to make decisions. At first, I struggled with speaking up and voicing my thoughts in class and in group settings. Given that I’m not technical, I was not very confident. Over time, however, I realized that that’s okay! People appreciate if you clarify your capabilities at the start instead of waiting to share later. I also began to speak up more in my groups since I understood that my opinions mattered to those around me.
Jiat: I knew from the start that the program wouldn’t be easy as it’s focused more on data science and technology. I was worried that I would not make a good teammate without coding skills. However, it turned out that I had better intuition on the market research and design of the prototype, allowing for my team to evenly distribute the workload to make our project happen. Through the process, I also learned about technological entrepreneurship, not something that was taught in my major.
How would you recommend a fellow student to prepare for Startup Semester?
Jieni: I would highly encourage them to read the news. It’s important to know what’s popular in the business world, in order to have better conversations with the people you meet. Overall, you should do your homework and research what’s to come. If you figure out your goals for the semester, you can avoid missing opportunities!
Yi-Hsuan: The semester is short, so come prepared with some idea of what you want to accomplish! For example, if you’re interested in creating a startup, maybe you can work towards meeting your future cofounder here. I’d also recommend learning basic technical skills beforehand (i.e. blockchain, coding, etc.). Having a basic understanding of the concepts will allow you to communicate more effectively with people at Berkeley.
Any last thoughts you want to share?
Joyce: Don’t be afraid to come here if you’re not technical! No matter your background, as long as you work hard and study hard, you will succeed. And push yourself to do things outside of your comfort zone — you’ll never know what new things you can learn and bring back with you. For me, it was challenging myself with technical courses such as Computer Science 10. Doing that has definitely made me feel more confident in working at tech companies, or at the least communicating with technical people.
Xinlin: Before coming to Startup Semester, I was very shy and avoided talking to people I didn’t know. I quickly learned that the most important part of being in the Startup Semester program is to be open to meeting new people, especially those who are different from you. Interacting with them will open you to new ideas and interests. Try to talk to as many people as you can, even if they don’t fit your traditional image of friends. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find your new best friend here.