Everybody talks about how they want to study abroad, but only a few of us actually do it. However, there’s no reason why anyone should pass up the opportunity.
I should note, please spare the, “Which abroad are you gonna study?” jokes. They weren’t funny the first time, and they don’t get better the second or third time.
Every University of California campus has an amazingly simple and useful set of programs to visit almost anywhere in the world. Most students may never have the chance to spend quality time in these countries once they graduate. Sure, we can take senior trips to Europe or go on surf trips to Central America, but how many chances will we have to spend four months to a year in Asia, Africa or Australia? Furthermore, it counts towards your degree.
Last fall, I spent a semester in South Africa. I went with the Education Abroad Program (EAP) to Durban, South Africa, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I’ll be graduating this spring, and I may never get a chance to go to another country for such a long time again. To all the other UC Irvine students who are wondering whether or not they should study abroad, my answer is firmly and unequivocally, yes!
Here’s how to get started. First, visit UCI’s Center for International Education Web site at http://www.cie.uci.edu/. This is your gateway to everything you need to know about going abroad. You many notice the big rectangle on your left that says, “Want to go abroad? START HERE.” Follow this advice. From here you can check out either the EAP or International Opportunities Programs (IOP).
The difference between the two is simple. EAP is a UC-wide study abroad program, and the classes you take overseas will show up on your UC transcript without much work on your part. It’s the easiest way to study abroad and have your classes count toward your major. The only problem with EAP is that there are a limited number of programs. Some students only have a semester to spare, and if they want to be working toward their major abroad, then EAP may require that they go for a whole year. It is also possible that a program may not exist for their major in a country they want to visit. My advice is to check out the EAP programs and try to find one that works for you. If you come up with nothing, move on to IOP.
The IOP section of the Web site gives you a ton of resources for other study abroad programs. If you go this route, your classes won’t automatically show up on your UC transcript and they’re usually Pass/No Pass. I’ll let you in on a little secret: Most universities in the world grade much easier than the University of California. After my EAP semester, I found myself with 24 UC credits (that’s two full-time quarters) of straight As. I even had my first A+. But like I said, if EAP doesn’t work for you, definitely check out IOP. It’s better than hanging out in Irvine for your whole college career.
Try not to worry about money either. I’m a financial aid recipient with virtually no income, and for my semester abroad, I got a substantial boost in grant money. Financial aid decisions for EAP students are based on the same criteria as if they were going to UCI the whole time. However, UC EAP has its own scholarship money, so students who are already receiving financial aid have an extra stockpile of free money waiting for them. The CIE Web site has lots of other scholarships you can apply for, as well.
Studying abroad is also a great career move. UC students are often disappointed to find out that there is no set formula for getting a job like there is for getting into a good college. When you’re looking for a job, you need to find ways to make yourself stand out amongst your competitors. So if your parents are nervous about you partying in another country for a few months when you should be concentrating on your future, you can tell them that your time abroad will help you down the road. Just make sure you go to class sometimes, spend time writing papers and studying for tests when they do come along, and everything should be fine.
If you’re thinking about studying abroad, all I can say is just do it. Get on the Web site. Go to the CIE office on campus, or do your own thing. It’s not that hard, and you don’t want to miss out.