Startup Semester students talk diversity, experiences at UC Berkeley

Through a global partnership with the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, students from Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG) are studying at UC Berkeley this semester. As part of the Startup Semester study abroad program, they are learning about about entrepreneurship and technology while growing their global networks.

We checked in with 3 students from UNIST, Soyoung Choi, Jinmyeong An and Woojeong Jang, and Arthur Ribeiro from UFMG to see how their semesters are going.

Jinmyeong An, Startup Semester Student

Is there anything new or different about the education or culture in the U.S.?

Arthur — The teaching style is different. Here, there are lots of assignments during the week. In Brazil we have a very different kind of class dynamic. In my Product Management class here, we are expected to do readings and assignments before we get to class. This means that when we get to class, the discussions are a much better experience — so we have a better time learning in class.

At Berkeley, there’s lots of diversity in nationalities — there are people from Asia, Latin America, and so many different countries — and also with majors. So, if I’m in an engineering class, there aren’t only engineers. We have designers, business students, political science students which gives us different perspectives to learn from.

WooJeong—  In Korea, I met only Koreans, and never experienced diversity. In Berkeley, students are from lots of other countries and represent different cultures. People have been open to teaching me when I have difficulties. Everyone is very welcoming, and when I say that this is my first time in the US, they ask if they can help and want to hear my stories!

At SCET, I am in the Alternative Meats Challenge Lab which is a new field for me, and is very different. In Korea, most people aren’t vegan  — so I had never thought about things like this.

Jinmyeong — The biggest culture shock is in talking with other people. In one of my classes, the professor said “let’s have a discussion with friends sitting around you,” and all the students started to talk with people near them even though they didn’t know each other! I was very surprised with that situation. I could not have discussion with them because I was so nervous. American culture encouraged me to be more outgoing and open.

In SCET classes, like Data-X, there is a relationship between class and the real world. In Korea, class is just class, where a professor teaches a student. Here, in Data-X, we signed an NDA, got data from a real company and solved a problem for them by applying the skills that we learned in class.

Soyoung — Here, professors always say “move it into action,” which is the biggest difference between here and Korea. In Bootcamp over here, we played an exchange game where we took an item and went around campus trying to exchange it for something of greater value. It showed us how it’s important to meet people, know what needs are and how to tell the story about our company and team. We learned that actions, and knowing how to speak matter. In the Bootcamp at my university in Korea, UNIST, there was no exchange game.

WooJeong Jang, Startup Semester Student

What do you hope to achieve from Startup Semester?

Arthur — My goal in Startup Semester is directly related to developing my sports startup, in which I was trying to record soccer games automatically. We’re now looking at professional teams to see how analysts and coaches can use data from videos — of both matches and practices — to improve the team.

At Berkeley, we’ve partnered with Cal Soccer and I have a team working on the startup that I met in my classes here! We’re definitely on the right track and the process of teaching entrepreneurship in Berkeley is helping us a lot. Really want to continue working on this here, and hope to search for accelerators or other projects to help it grow.

Soyoung — I want to understand the process of making a startup successfully. I hope to make something that’s really helpful to people, and I’m excited to use this opportunity to find mentors and learn more.

WooJeong — Earlier, I didn’t think about my future, and internships, and things like that. In my classes here, there are many industry people who score our teams and give feedback, which is really helpful for me. I’d like to find jobs in companies like theirs and work in San Francisco. Some day I want to launch my own startup.

What drew you to Startup Semester?

Arthur — In Brazil, we think Silicon Valley is the best place for entrepreneurship. I study Mechanical Engineering at UFMG, and we have a partnership with the Sutardja Center. Previous students who attended Startup Semester really enjoyed it and said it was the best thing for me. I began a startup in Brazil as a side project. It’s about sports, and I was trying to figure out how to record soccer games automatically. Now, I’m looking at professional soccer teams, and working on analyzing videos to improve teams.

WooJeong— I used to think about working in a bank because my major is Finance, but I realized that it’s not the only thing I can do.  I wanted to broaden my horizons. I heard about Startup Semester, where there would be exposure to many companies, and I’d be able to learn more in the U.S.

Jinmyeong — I attended a hackathon in Silicon Valley — and at the time visited many Silicon Valley startups and companies like Facebook and Google. I participated in a demo day in Silicon Valley. Back in Korea, I tried to create a startup and develop something new. I knew that I wanted to go back to Silicon Valley and work with people there using my ideas and skills. I found a notice about Startup Semester in berkeley and thought it’s a great way to learn about startups in the right place.

Arthur Ribeiro, Startup Semester Student

What has your best experience here been, so far?

Arthur — Being here, and getting to know people. I have a team in my startup that I met here in my class. I have enjoyed making more friends, listening to speakers in classes, and knowing people to talk to about different things. People here are very open and helpful.

Jinmyeong — Riding a bike from Pier 39 to Sausalito. In Korea, there are so many mountains and hills. There’s more flat land here, so it was really fun to ride my bike! The weather is clear and nice — even though this is “winter.”

Soyoung — I really like the English tutoring program in YWCA. Volunteers come and speak to me one-on-one. I met someone who was very kind and talked about her experiences. Even though we have an age gap, we’re friends now and go to concerts here together.  

WooJeong — Being in social clubs, like AAA and Korean student organizations. I’m introverted, but in the club I feel like I’m a different person and can talk to others! We meet outside club events, and have dinner or meet up. It’s really fun. I didn’t know meeting other people can be really nice.


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