The inspirational summer I had in Berkeley

By Ikuo Kamei

Hello, I’m Ikuo Kamei and I’m a graduate student at the University of Tokyo, Graduate School of Information Science and Technology. I participated in Berkeley Summer Sessions 2019. First, I really appreciate the support from FUTI, which made my trip possible.

The program was hosted by University of California Berkeley and you could take whichever classes you want to take. I took two classes: CS61A “Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs” and CS188 “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence”. Since I majored in EECS when I was an undergraduate, these topics were kind of familiar to me. However, I wanted to learn the topics more deeply and more importantly I was interested in the differences in the way of teaching. CS61A covered the basic understandings about how computers interpret and execute codes. This class was very popular and large auditorium was almost full. Although this class was relatively easy, I learned how computers work at an abstract level for the first time and I got more comfortable and confident in writing codes. On the other hand, CS188 covered many techniques used in artificial intelligence such as probabilities and neural networks. This class was much harder and faster-paced than the other and I had to submit a lot of assignments. However, I loved the class more because there were discussion classes where I solved problems together in a small group. Preparing for exams together late at night was a good memory (exams of CS classes are known to be really hard). Overall, taking classes in UC Berkeley made me confident because I could keep up with the curriculum and I had no problem participating in classes in English.

I liked the campus and its neighborhood. I loved the abundant nature in the campus and comfortable libraries. There were a lot of cafes and restaurants nearby to choose from and they offered wide variety of food. One of my favorites is a bakery in front of the main school gate and they sold many kinds of tasty buns. Since I had no time to go outside the campus to have lunch between classes, I often stopped by the bakery in the morning and brought some buns to the campus. Also, the gyms were great. Every student of UC Berkeley has free access to the gyms, which are equipped with training and running machines, swimming pools and studios. I made the habit of going to the gym three times a week, which played a great role in maintaining my health while staying there. Generally, I think the facilities of UC Berkeley are just as good as UTokyo (that is to say, very good).

While I was staying in Berkeley, I made a lot of precious friends and went out with them on weekends. One unforgettable memory is of the July 4th: The Independence Day. We went to the shoreline to see the fireworks and while we were waiting for fireworks, we played a card game called werewolf (人狼 in Japanese). Since playing the game involved acting which I had never done in English, I had difficulty but really enjoyed it. The fireworks started after the sun set and I noticed that they looked very different from Japanese fireworks because they were intended for celebration, not for consolation of the departed. The atmosphere around me on that day and the whole experience was new to me. I have so many memories with my friends that I want to write about but there are too personal so here are some of the pictures of our weekend trips:

Since most of my new friends are from Asia, I became interested in international issues such as the relationship China and Hong Kong. Also, it was interesting to know other country’s unique cultures or the lifestyles of other countries’ students. I was especially surprised to hear that some Chinese high school students study literally all day. After talking with my friends all night, I realized that I had been living in a very small community in Japan and I had to broaden my perspective as a global citizen on earth.

Finally, here is my advice for those who are thinking of studying abroad:
Don’t hesitate. Apply.
Of course, I had had a lot of concerns and hesitations before I applied to this program because studying overseas for two months meant some delays in my research and not being able to take some classes in my university etc.… But looking back, I have no regrets whatsoever. I’m sure you can get unique experience no matter what program you participate in and you’ll be proud of your decision. Good luck!