Year abroad: UCLA vs. Berkeley vs. Georgetown vs. McGill

<p>Jeez it feels strange to be back here... used this forum loads when I was applying to college in the US (rejected by pretty much every college in the lower 48 ), but haven't been on since.</p>

<p>Anyway, I'm now in the second year of my undergrad degree at Trinity College Dublin (I'm from the UK originally), and thinking of taking a year abroad next year. My university has exchange programmes with all the colleges above, and I'm trying to decide where to apply. I feel I have a reasonably good grasp of the universities as a whole, but I would be very interested to hear anyone's opinion on what they'd be like for a one-year exchange student, particularly in terms of student life / social life and how easy it'd be to make friends with US students. Spending the whole year with a load of other international students would seem like a wasted opportunity.</p>

<p>Unfortunately it's unlikely I'll be able to visit any of them before I've submitted my application.</p>

<p>Thanks very much,

how easy it'd be to make friends with US students.


<p>There aren't <em>that</em> many US students at McGill. Non-Canadians, yes, but that includes Europeans.</p>

<p>Your best choice might depend on what you are studying.</p>

<p>Hi midmo,</p>

<p>Sorry, that's my fault for not checking my last post properly - I should have said "how easy it'd be to make friends with local students".</p>

<p>I'll be studying some combination of politics, philosophy and economics, which probably gives a boost for Berkeley and Georgetown. I'm reasonably confident that I'd get a good year of education at any of these colleges, though, and it's the student life aspect that's likely to be the deciding factor for me.</p>

<p>One thing to consider: At UCLA and Berkeley, you're going to primarily meet California kids. They both will have a much less US geographic diversity than Georgetown.</p>

<p>I think Georgetown sounds like a great option.</p>

<p>I know, many people think CA can't be beat (my son lives in San Francisco), but Georgetown puts you relatively close to a lot of different places that would be great to see on a year abroad, and the programs would serve you well, it seems to me.</p>

<p>Hm... that's a very interesting point, qialha - thanks. The flipside is that I haven't been to the west coast before, so it'd be interesting in that regard.</p>

<p>Another thing I've been wondering about is greek life. Presumably it's not going to be possible for a one-year student to really get into that scene, in which case might I do better somewhere like G'town where the social scene seems to revolve around clubs etc. instead?</p>

<p>Thanks midmo -yeah, being in DC definitely appeals to me, though going west would be more fo a fresh experience. One thing that puts me off Georgetown is that one major reason it's so competitive seems to be the internship opportunites, which (by my understanding) my visa wouldn't cover.</p>

<p>Few parts of the country have as much to offer as Berkeley, but in your case I think DC might be a better choice. It's not as big as Cal (or UCLA) and it may be easier to make friends. Also public transportation is better in the east than in California.</p>

<p>I feel like out of your options, UCLA would be the most fun. It has the nicest weather and arguably most social reputation of the group.</p>

<p>However, for an international student, Berkeley might look the best after returning home? As in, it might be the coolest brag to say you spent a year at Berkeley? You'd know better than me on that one.</p>

<p>I think Wash DC for an international student is hands-down the best over either LA or San Francisco. Though you don't really have any bad choices. And I concur that at UCLA and Berkeley you will be mingling mostly with Californians.</p>

<p>I agree with Pizzagirl. For one year, DC is hard to beat!</p>

<p>I would choose Georgetown, and add on a California sightseeing trip before or after your exchange. For a student with your academic interests, DC is the best option.</p>

<p>^ Yeah, to miss what you could have had at Berkeley.</p>

<p>Cal football will be back in a renovated Memorial Stadium next year.</p>

<p>Public transportation in the Bay Area is fantastic. Access to two international airports and San Francisco a short 10 minute walk from campus. You wont need a car. Stay at International House and meet people from all over the world at the best public research university in the world overlooking one of the most spectactular vistas on Earth.</p>

<p>OP, listen to me. Go to Berkeley. It's hands down the best place in your list. It's the most prestigious and the most respected name in Europe, in general, and, in Ireland, particular. Berkeley is an amazing school -- it's big, with lots of amazing, beautiful people from all social, ethnic, religious backgrounds. Over 30% of the Freshmen Class are from other parts of the US and the world (30.5% OOS), and are some of the smartest people on earth. The faculty line-up is awesome -- many are nationally and internationally awarded for their respected field (e.g. Nobel, Pulitzer, Turing, NAS, NAE, AAA, etc) that you will have an opportunity to meet and socialize, something that Georgetown couldn't offer. Berkeley's weather is a lot nicer than DC. You'll have sun at Berkeley. DC's sky is gray, like Ireland, most of the time.</p>

<p>UCLA students undoubtedly know how to have fun. Their latest endeavor seems to be trying to prop up the flash-mob scene as shown by their latest effort at the UCLA-Cal homecoming football game, and for which UCB will like the latter portion of this video. ;)</p>

<p>Foolish me. I always thought the highlight of every UCLA home game for students was making the 25 mile trek to Pasadena and being stuck in a traffic jam on a freeway in the valley. :-)</p>

<p>For someone entering as a 3rd or 4th year transfer or exchange student, I think Berkeley has more to offer academically (unless you're in the GU SFS/IR program). Berkeley is a much stronger research university, with more distinguished faculty, better facilities, and far more courses than Georgetown can offer. The graduate departments of philosophy, economics and political science are all among the best in the country. Graduate department strength isn't necessarily very relevant to a first or second year student at a large public university (where introductory classes are often very large and led by TAs), but it is to a 3rd or 4th year student eligible to take advanced courses.</p>

<p>It's not quite the slam-dunk case RML presents. Georgetown's DC location is a big plus for internships in government- & economics-related areas if you have any intention of pursuing one. Georgetown is a slightly more selective school, with a student body drawn from all over America and the world. Not only are 70% of Berkeley undergraduates Californians, a large percentage of those come from the SF Bay area and a few surrounding counties. Several undergraduate program rankings place Berkeley much lower than USNWR's #22 (it gets a bump-up in "Peer Assessment", probably due to strong graduate programs). With one exception (Washington Monthly, incorporating "social mobility" and "service" criteria) they all rank Georgetown higher as an undergraduate school. But again, as you get into advanced courses, Berkeley's research strengths become increasingly relevant.</p>

<p>The California climate (even in the north) is much nicer. Take away the government buildings and museums surrounding the national Mall, and DC is not nearly as attractive a city as SF. San Francisco has the added advantage of relative proximity to the mountain West (which you really ought to explore a little during your stay.)</p>


Many students really don't care all that much about the strength of the host university.</p>

<p>If students only aimed for comparable or better institutions, many, many countries would be completely off limits. U Cape Town and Bilkent U are arguably the best universities in their countries, for example, but they're not nearly as strong as Hopkins and Cornell. Similarly, when choosing between universities within a country, weaker universities are often preferred for very good reasons. Sure, Queen Mary isn't as reputable as Bath, and the latter is in a lovely small city, but most students would much rather study abroad in London. </p>

<p>TCD is a very reputable university, and I'm extremely skeptical the choice of the OP's host university will make a significant difference in future career/post-graduate prospects. Most students only study abroad for a semester or two. The chances that they have some sort of life-changing academic experience or build extremely close ties with renowned faculty members during that time frame are generally pretty remote. Aside from field-based programs (e.g. ecology in Costa Rica), most students are much more likely to spend their time seeing the sights than conducting serious research. In any case, Georgetown offers, what, 1500 or so courses a year? I think the OP could manage to find 10 courses that are sufficiently stimulating.</p>

<p>^ Even if you remove Berkeley's academic strengths from the decision, in my opinion, neither DC nor the SF Bay area is "hands down" the better choice of an area to spend a semester or a year. It just depends on what you want.</p>

<p>If you're looking for a life-changing non-academic experience, I think you're about as likely to find it at one school as the other. Personally, in that regard, I'd go for the Bay area and the West. It takes you more dramatically away from an Irish and European perspective.</p>