Anderson Lam sharing on EducationUSA Pre-Departure Orientation 2023
What motivated you to choose the United States as your study destination?
Studying in the States has always been my dream since middle high school. And one reason for this is because of the American TV Show, The Big Bang Theory, as well as Brooklyn 99. I will watch every episode again and again, even actually until now, and it just never feels old. Seeing how people interact with one another in TV Shows kind of sparks my interest in exploring and wanting to know more about American culture. Moreover, since I want to pursue electrical engineering and computer sciences, there’s no other better place than silicon valley itself. So that’s the reason why I chose the United States
How did you make your final decision among the universities that accepted you? What factors influenced your choice?
I was accepted to various universities such as Cornell University, UC Berkeley, UCLA, Georgia Tech, UIUC, and so on for the major I wanted - Electrical Engineering. It was a tough choice to choose between Cornell and UC Berkeley; Cornell is an Ivy League while UC Berkeley is the top 1 public university in the world. However, it didn’t take me very long to decide to commit to UC Berkeley. One of the obvious reasons is that the Berkeley EECS program is ranked top 3 in the world. And another factor is that I already have a community there, I know some friends and some mentors even before I got accepted. And since Berkeley is only an hour away from the community college I attend, it is way easier for me to move there compared to New York, a place that I am not familiar with.
How did you feel when you received your acceptance letter from your current university? Can you share any memorable moments from that experience?
I actually still remember the date of receiving the acceptance letter; it was 22 April 2022 at 3:30 pm. UC Davis came out at 3:00 pm, and when I was happy I got accepted, an email from Berkeley came saying the result was out. I was super nervous about opening the portal, and when I did, I saw the word “congratulations,” and I was screaming like crazy, legit like “AHHHHH, I GOT INTO BERKELEY,” and I ran to my housemates, and they hugged me and congratulated me. My friends at Berkeley heard the news and called me to congratulate me. That’s actually really memorable, i was just really happy
What were you excited about and/or nervous about before you left?
I am just excited about everything, excited to meet new people, learn more about them, experience the Berkeley culture, and so on. I wouldn’t say I was that nervous because I was really hyped and excited to go Berkeley. Nervous is not really something for me.
Life in the U.S.
What was the most common thing people asked you about where you are from?
Okay, this is kinda sad, but everyone is asking me if I am from Singapore. I guess it is because of my accent, and more people know Singapore than Malaysia, so their first guess will always be Singapore. Then I will explain to them that I am from the neighboring country-Malaysia. Sometimes people guess I am from China or Taiwan, or Hongkong too, so I usually don’t get offended if someone guesses wrongly.
What was the most surprising thing you did or saw?
This only happens in Berkeley. So every semester during the dead week, which is a week before finals, we have something called the naked run, where students will be running around the library without any clothes or pants. This is fully voluntary, and you don’t have to join. It’s the same thing as UCLA's undie run, but they are not naked. That was kind of surprising to me how free America is. If you do this in Malaysia, you might be in jail eating curry rice.
What was the hardest adjustment you had to make? and how did you overcome them?
I would say the hardest adjustment I had to make was transitioning to higher education. The courses are fast-paced, harder in terms of exam difficulty levels, a lot more things to absorb, and there are just a lot of other things to do. I would say having a community or a group of friends is the best way and easiest way to overcome it. Everyone is in this together, so everyone could easily share their opinions and the burden together.
What are some memorable experiences or opportunities you've had as an international student in the United States?
There are so many memorable experiences that I had studying in the States. If I would share everything, it’s going to be more than 3 hours. One of the most memorable experience is my friends and I finished our final at 11:59 pm-midnight, and then we decided to have an impromptu trip to Santa Cruz, which is an hour away from Cupertino. So we drove through the jungle, the windy highway, to eventually see the beach and hear the sound of the ocean. And it was too cold since it was during the winter; we were shaking like crazy, experiencing mother nature. After that, we just drove back to Cupertino and had supper together. That was fun. Talking about opportunities in the US, there is a lot for international students, definitely not as much as the locals, but reasonable for us to do the things we want to do. I had a research opportunity last semester working on flexible sensors for agriculture, that’s pretty cool.
How did you deal with homesickness or feelings of loneliness while being away from your home country?
I don’t feel homesick that much because I will try my best to come back to Malaysia every summer break, or my family will visit me in the States. I call my family once a week or maybe twice sometimes. I don’t usually feel lonely because I have a bunch of friends and housemates, so I am really grateful for that.
What are your plans for the future after completing your studies?
I would first love to work in the tech giants such as Apple, Tesla, Google, and so on. And then continue pursuing my master's or Ph.D. in agricultural technology-related major. But in the end, I still want to come back to Malaysia because I am a Malaysian and this is my home.
One piece of advice for the students here today.
One piece of advice I would give is to enjoy the time you’re studying in the US and make the most out of it. Yes, getting an A or a 4.0 GPA is important, but the connections and network you make are far more valuable than anything else. Make more international connections and learn about their culture as well. Please do not limit yourself to the Malaysian community; step out of your comfort zone and reach out to your professors, your GSIs, student organizations, and so on. Learn from their expertise and experiences.