University of California Davis
💼 Bachelor: Managerial Economics
⏳ Sep 2017 — Jun 2021
✅ Student Visa (F1)
University of California Davis
🤓 35,000 Students
🌏 25% International
My high school experience in Taiwan
During my middle school years, the idea of attending college in the US started to appeal to me. This was largely because my older brother, who is four years older, was set on studying in the US, and I wanted to follow in his footsteps.
My parents were all for this idea. They'd heard from friends and colleagues about how their kids were doing great in US schools, and so they really got behind my brother in getting ready for his move abroad. By the time I was finishing up middle school, he was already studying in the US.
That's when my parents started looking for international schools in Taiwan that followed an American curriculum, believing it would give me a leg up when applying for US colleges. Until then, my schooling was mostly in Chinese, with subjects like Taiwanese history and math. But to get ready for college in the US, I needed more exposure to English.
After middle school, I joined an international school that followed an American-style curriculum. While it wasn't exactly the same as a US high school, it was close enough. This school also offered programs like International Baccalaureate (IB) and Advanced Placement (AP) courses, although the options were not as wide-ranging as in a US high school.
A unique feature of my school was the focus on extracurricular activities. For example, we took part in a two-week bike tour across Taiwan, which was a great experience. The school also offered a wide range of sports programs, including weekly swimming lessons, which went beyond what was available at local schools.
Another system they had in place was a homeroom system where each class was assigned a counselor who gave advice on college applications and standardized tests. But with one counselor for 20 to 30 students, it wasn't as personal as I would have liked.
Some students opted for additional guidance by hiring private counselors, but I chose to rely solely on my school's resources. Even though my parents had reservations about this decision, I wasn't convinced that a private counselor would necessarily guarantee a spot in a prestigious school. Looking back, though, I realize that some extra help might have been beneficial. After all, school counselors have a lot on their plates and can't always provide the most personalized advice.
Choosing UC Davis
Out of the three or four schools that accepted me, I decided UC Davis was the best fit. Several things went into this decision.
Firstly, the fact that UC Davis is on the West Coast was a big deal. Most of my other choices were in the Midwest, a region that didn't really appeal to me or my parents due to it being more isolated and potentially not as safe. My parents wanted me to be in a place where a city was easy to reach, either because it was nearby or because public transportation was good. UC Davis ticked this box quite well.
Secondly, I liked the idea of going to a public school. I felt these schools had a diverse mix of students. This wasn't something I got from first-hand experience, but rather from my own research and understanding.
Thirdly, there was the simple fact that I liked the idea of living in California. This might seem straightforward, but I just prefer warmer weather, and California definitely has that. I wasn't ready to endure the heavy snow winters that the East Coast is known for. That said, if NYU had offered me a spot during my undergrad years, I might have thought twice.
Another thing that swayed me towards UC Davis was my belief that a less urban school environment would be better. My parents and I were worried that a bustling city like New York might be too much of a distraction and take my attention away from my studies. We were more for a place where studying was the main thing.
Looking back on these points, I'm sure that choosing UC Davis was the right move. It has the right mix of location, student diversity, great weather, and a focus on academics. And the campus is very beautiful!
When it came to my college application, I had completed a variety of AP classes, including calculus and Chinese, and another one that I'm currently forgetting. It could have been literature or American history. My school had a rigorous selection process for the IB program, so I opted out of it, especially since I was already enrolled in a few honors classes. By the time I was set to graduate, I had a solid GPA of 3.8.
Regarding language tests, I scored 103 on the TOEFL. For the college entrance exams, I took the ACT instead of the SAT. At the time, the SAT was going through a format change, and there was a lot of discussion about it potentially being harder. I considered taking both exams but decided it was better not to spread myself too thin and stuck with the ACT. I took the test twice and my highest score was 29.
I observed that many of my peers were aiming for over 30 on the ACT. Not a lot of them hit the mark, but the ones who did end up at top schools. I won't deny that I wished for a higher ACT score at times. But, looking back, I think everything worked out well and I'm very happy with my results!
Throughout high school, I was very involved in extracurricular activities. In my freshman year, I attended a summer school program that turned out to be a major part of my high school experience. The program covered a mix of topics including writing, math, literature, and even sports competitions. When it was time for college applications, a teacher from this summer program provided me with a recommendation letter.
During my sophomore year, I had an amazing opportunity to volunteer in Cambodia. I don't remember all the details, but I was there for a month or two. The experience involved helping local villagers with building infrastructure such as bridges and toilets and aiding in enhancing their existing facilities. It was a truly rewarding experience.
Another activity that I was consistently involved in was calligraphy. I wouldn't consider myself a professional, but I've been learning and practicing since I was in elementary school. In high school, I used this skill to support a charity initiative where I sold calligraphy couplets on the street.
I also spent some time in the school orchestra, playing the cello. This was part of the elective courses that my school offered, where students could choose from a variety of classes ranging from musical instruments to acting, computer science, video shooting, and even social media editing. I picked cello because I genuinely loved it. Unfortunately, I could only stick with it for a semester or two due to my busy schedule. The beauty of these elective courses was the opportunities they presented to compete with other schools and expand our skills beyond the school setting.
When it comes to tuition costs at UC Davis, things operate a bit differently as it's a UC system school, which means we follow a quarter system with three semesters each year. Typically, each quarter will set you back around $30,000 to $40,000. The reason for this range is the requirement for students to live in dorms during the first one or two years. So, your tuition fees aren't just for your studies, they also cover your dormitory and meal expenses. Basically, you pay your tuition fees at the start of the quarter, and then you're good to go for both accommodation and meals.
As for scholarships, they do exist, but in my experience, they can be pretty limited, particularly for international students. Most of the scholarships I came across seemed to be aimed more at domestic students.
Academic Experience at UC Davis
My academic journey at UC Davis was definitely more challenging than what I was used to in my international school. The grading was stricter, and each professor had their own way of doing things, so I had to get into the habit of really understanding the syllabus and setting my own goals for each class.
In my first year of college, it was a whirlwind of new experiences. Still, I decided to keep my eyes on my studies because of the huge investment my parents had made in my education abroad. I felt it was my duty to get as much out of this opportunity as possible. I had high goals, showed up to as many lectures and discussions as I could, and made sure to schedule office hours with professors if I had any questions.
In a college setup, classes can be pretty big, which means it's not always possible to get your questions answered during class. Professors are busy people, so managing your time well becomes key, especially when juggling multiple courses. This means keeping up with your academic work and making sure you've planned time to meet with professors outside class hours.
Balancing schoolwork with taking care of yourself is also a big deal. Nobody's going to tell you to work out or eat well, so you've got to make these a part of your daily routine. I joined the cross-country club in my first year, which was a big leap out of my comfort zone as I'd never been part of a sports club before. It was quite intense, especially since many of the members had been running for years. But in the end, I really enjoyed it. We even took part in several competitions and marathons, which added a new layer to my college life beyond just academics.
I had a few favorite courses during my time at UC Davis. The first was a Business Analytics class offered by the School of Agriculture department. Thanks to our location close to rural areas, our university has an amazing agriculture department. This class stood out from my usual Business or Economics classes because it used programming languages and analytical software a lot. The coursework was hands-on and involved using software to complete in-class assignments within a given time limit. It was challenging but also refreshing. I did really well in this class, and this led to me getting the chance to be a teaching assistant (TA) for the same course.
Another class that left a mark was Spanish. Considering California's language diversity and the high number of Spanish speakers, I thought it'd be handy to learn the language. The Spanish program at our university was very well set up, with different levels allowing beginners like me to slowly but surely improve our language skills. One of my instructors stood out, and I took his classes for three or four semesters. His teaching style clicked with me, and we built such a good relationship that he offered to write a recommendation letter for my graduate school when I had to go back to Taiwan for remote studies. Lastly, I took a Japanese course which added an exciting twist to my academic journey and really diversified my learning experience.
Moving on to a graduate school at NYU
Deciding to pursue grad school in New York was driven by a period of uncertainty after graduating from UC Davis. I wasn't quite sure which direction to take within the business field, and though I had some exposure to accounting, it didn't truly resonate with me. Despite these doubts, I still applied for a Master's in Accounting, considering it a stable career path. However, when the time came to choose a school, I realized that it wasn't the right fit for me.
Instead, I opted for a gap year to reflect on my true passions. During this time, I explored courses in design and interactive media, which opened my eyes to the exciting possibilities in the digital world, particularly in social media and various internet platforms. The idea of creating something innovative and interactive ignited a spark within me, leading me to delve into disciplines like AR, VR, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning.
After thorough research and contemplation, I decided to pivot my career path. I discovered numerous inspiring stories online from individuals who pursued the major I'm currently pursuing. The program offers considerable freedom in course selection, with only a few mandatory courses, allowing students to tailor their studies to their interests. This flexibility has enabled me to delve into data science and other related areas that captivate me. So far, this experience has been incredibly fulfilling, and I'm glad I took the time to genuinely explore and understand my aspirations before embarking on this journey.