From the Digital Classroom to In Person on Campus: Santiago Transfers to UC Berkeley

American Collegiate Live
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American Collegiate LA
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By Bhanujith Wijesinghe
Last updated on August 11, 2023

Santiago, an international student from Mexico who studied online with American Collegiate Live, shares his journey transferring to UC Berkeley.

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During the pandemic, Santiago, an international student from Mexico, enrolled online with American Collegiate Live for his first year of university studies. During the program, his advisors encouraged him to head next to American Collegiate Los Angeles at the UCLA Extension school. Once there, he successfully completed more classes — and was accepted as a transfer student at the University of California, Berkeley — ranked #22 nationally and #2 among Top Public Schools by U.S. News & World Report.

Santiago recently shared his experiences as an international student studying online, the support he received from his American Collegiate advisors, and how he stayed motivated.

Choosing a First-Year Online Program During the Pandemic

At home in Mexico City, Santiago decided to start his higher education journey in his final year of high school. He knew that he wanted to eventually study abroad in the US and, when he heard about the American Collegiate Live program, immediately seized the opportunity. He was particularly impressed with American Collegiate Live’s instructors from the University of Massachusetts Boston

“I was hearing about [American Collegiate Live] and I thought, this was going to be a great opportunity for me to get into a better university or college,” he said. “So, I decided to try it out.”

He started his first-year studies via American Collegiate Live and UMass Boston in Summer 2020, during the pandemic, and put all his efforts into doing well in his online classes. He earned good grades and, by the end of the year, was deciding between several options in the University of California (UC) system to complete his degree. 

The American Collegiate Live team recommended that Santiago continue his studies with the American Collegiate, LA program at UCLA Extension school. Santiago agreed and headed to California. At American Collegiate, LA, he earned the credits he needed to achieve his goal of studying abroad at a UC school; he chose UC Berkeley.

Taking Online Classes via American Collegiate Live

In Summer 2020, the world was still grappling with COVID-19, but in the middle of such uncertainty, Santiago forged ahead, starting online classes just one month after finishing high school. Every experience was new. 

Like so many during the pandemic, “I was kind of traumatized and I was like, ‘what was going to happen now?’” he recalls. But in recalling the American Collegiate Live program itself, Santiago described it as a very positive experience. His advisors were helpful and encouraging. He was able to take many social science classes, like economics and sociology, subjects that Santiago had an interest in studying.

Santiago also got the chance to meet many other international students online. He mentioned how he was able, for the first time, to make many international friends from countries like Singapore and Iran. 

“My high school was US-Mexican and there were students from other countries as well, but I was in a Mexican bubble. When I started [American Collegiate Live], I wanted to get to know everybody,” he said.

Getting Support from American Collegiate Live Advisors

American Collegiate’s advisors helped Santiago, along with other international students, with tutoring, mentoring, submitting applications, and more. Amy Cruz, Santiago’s American Collegiate, LA advisor, provided valuable guidance while connecting with each student, no matter their cultural background. 

“She was a great mentor for me and my peers,” he said. “She was very involved with each student. I never expected that help, I thought I was going to be on my own here. I didn’t know what to do, but Amy was an amazing help [to me].”

Santiago’s advisors also built communities among students: Cruz introduced him to all the other American Collegiate students in LA and encouraged friendships by organizing dinners and road trips. 

Cruz was also vital in helping Santiago apply to the schools he was considering. In a month, Cruz helped Santiago brainstorm essay ideas and guided him through the necessary steps to send out applications for six schools, including UC Berkeley, UCLA, and the University of Southern California. Santiago would have continued to apply to more institutions, but quickly received his acceptance letter from UC Berkeley and decided to enroll. 

“It was really tough at the beginning, but Amy was really helpful,” he said. “She really guided me through the necessary steps to build a strong application.”

Santiago’s Advice for Future International Students

Santiago emphasized the importance of self-development and motivation, and encourages international students to have a positive mindset. 

“I was visualizing myself in a great school when I was putting in the effort,” he said. “Then, even though it was a different country, different city, different everything, when I arrived, I was still very motivated. So, it’s all about visualizing and attracting this energy of ‘I’m going to do this, I’m going to make it.’”

Looking Ahead to Berkeley

At UC Berkeley, Santiago will be studying political economics, a subject that always interested him, and is particularly attracted to the program’s humanist approach. He is also considering a minor in data science. 

Later this summer, Santiago is planning to move in with some friends in Berkeley, and is excited about the road trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

Through the help of his advisors, Santiago was able to stay motivated through the challenges of studying in a completely different country and working online during the pandemic. With Shorelight, you too can receive guidance to overcome challenges and study the field you love. Reach out to our advisors to learn more about our top-ranked US universities that support you in achieving your personal, professional, and academic goals.

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