My ChemEng experience in Berkeley, California


Joseph El-Kadi

We spoke to Joseph El-Kadi, a third year Chemical Engineering student, about his exchange year experience at the University of California, Berkeley

When people say that doing an exchange year changes you, they really mean it. My name is Joseph and, as an international student, living abroad is something that I am familiar with, having grown up in Abu Dhabi before coming to London. However, despite thinking that I had ‘seen it all’ in London, throwing myself into a new environment on the other side of the world, yet again, has made me discover a new version of myself. So many things at Berkeley have given me a new outlook on life: from the politically active and liberal culture, to the meditation classes I took this semester (not for credit though, don’t worry Dr Kogelbauer [Chemical Engineering Director of Course Operations at Imperial]!) to the homeless clinic that I volunteer at. Coming to Berkeley and immersing myself in the culture here has really burst many bubbles for me and because of this I highly recommend the Exchange Year Programme to anyone.

Coming to Berkeley and immersing myself in the culture here has really burst many bubbles for me

– Joseph El-Kadi

Beverly Hills road trip

Beverly Hills road trip

In terms of the academics, the educational system in the US is quite different from the UK. Assignments are much more continual, taking place on a weekly basis, and with midterms and finals during the semester it keeps you on your toes. However, this does mean that I now get to enjoy my winter break. Another great thing is the ability to take courses from any department at the university so long as you meet the requirements - I hope to take a course next semester on photovoltaic devices in electrical engineering. As for accommodation, I live in an incredible dorm called the ‘International House’ that is full of students from everywhere around the world; the friends I’ve made there have played a key role in making my experience at Berkeley so enjoyable. We often visit San Francisco which is only 30 minutes away by tube and we’ve also road tripped to Los Angeles and Lake Tahoe.

I definitely miss Nando's and our Students' Union

– Joseph El-Kadi

I often get asked if I miss London and I absolutely do, that is, aside from the weather. I miss my friends, the events organised by our Chemical Engineering Society and the tight-knit community of our department - I feel that we have a friendlier Student-Faculty relationship at Imperial. Also, this is the first year I won’t be performing in the Chemical Engineering Talent Show alongside my co-rapper Kush, but I’m sure he’ll do a great job without me. Finally, I definitely miss Nandos and our Students' Union, and overall I’m excited to return back to London, although I’d like to warn everyone in advance about the hippy-Californian-eco-friendly-liberal ideologies that I’ll be bringing back with me.

Joseph El-Kadi.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe


Joseph El-Kadi is a third year Chemical Engineering undergraduate student currently on an exchange year at the University of California, Berkeley. The MEng Chemical Engineering with a Year Abroad programme offers students the opportunity to spend the third year of the four year course at a leading partner institution, where they complete a series of modules and assessments similar to those at Imperial. Find out more about our undergraduate Chemical Engineering MEng programmes.


Michael Panagopulos

Michael Panagopulos
Department of Chemical Engineering

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