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Students Without Borders
UCSD Offers a Cornucopia of Study Abroad Programs for Many Majors

By Ioana Patringenaru | November 20, 2006

UC students and their professor
amid the ruins of the Forum in Rome.
Courtesy of UC EAP

You can learn about biodiversity in a Costa Rican tropical rain forest. You can study engineering, science and business in Hong Kong. Or you can learn about the Italian Renaissance and go to class right in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

About 1,200 UCSD students studied abroad last year, more than at any other UC campus, said Bill Clabby, director of UCSD’s Opportunities Abroad Program. UCSD also sends more students abroad for one year than any other research university, he said. But campus advisors at the Programs Abroad Office aren’t resting on their laurels. They want students to know studying abroad isn’t just for political science, international studies and foreign language majors. They made their case in a series of workshops held on campus last week during International Education Week, including a session targeted specifically to computer science and engineering students.

“You owe it to yourself to go,” Clabby told about a dozen students at the Jacobs School of Engineering. “It’s probably the best thing you’ll do while you’re at UCSD.”

The Programs Abroad Office has been reaching out to science, math and engineering majors – and it’s paid off,  Clabby said. Last year, 22 percent of UCSD students studying abroad came from these majors. The national average is 15 percent. UCSD has sent more engineering and computer science majors to the UC Education Abroad Program than any other UC campus over the last five years.

Studying abroad is good for your resume, Clabby went on. About 1 percent of U.S. students study outside the country, so that kind of experience makes a resume stand out. Learning a foreign language is always a plus. Students also learn a lot about themselves, he added. Clabby knows what he’s talking about. When he was a UCSD student, he studied in France. Then he did a two-year stint in the Peace Corps in Senegal. He also taught in Japan.

Tom Stein by a giant haystack
in Transylvania, Romania.
Related Links:
UC Education Abroad Program
UCSD’s Programs Abroad Office

At UCSD, students have two options to go abroad. They can take part in the UC Education Abroad Program, with more than 150 offerings in 33 countries. Destinations include Australia, Japan, Egypt and Ghana. Students can earn UC credit that goes toward their grade point average. All financial aid applies to this program, except work study, said Marisa Alioto, a programs abroad advisor.

If they can’t find a good fit through UC, students can take part in UCSD’s Opportunities Abroad Program, with more than 20,000 offerings. They can take part in programs sponsored by other universities and private companies. They can enroll directly at a foreign university. Students earn transfer credit, which won’t count toward their GPA, Alioto said. Units count for major, minor or general education requirements. Opportunities also include academic internships and work assignments. Financial aid applies, with the exception of UC-specific aid, Alioto said. UCSD and UCI are the only two UC campuses that offer Opportunities Abroad Programs, said Clabby.

Abby Gorman, an urban studies major with a visual arts minor, opted for the UC Education Abroad Program when she decided to spend a semester in Rome last spring.

“I had an amazing time,” she said. “Rome is a great city to study art because it’s all around you.”

At the Santo Quattro Monastery, a professor talks about the centuries of history and tradition reflected in the art on the walls.
Courtesy of UC EAP

One of her professors was an expert in Venetian art. Many of her classes took place in the streets of Rome, touring Baroque churches and buildings. Gorman and her classmates once spent a whole day examining a single painting. They took quizzes in a park and a church. A Renaissance art class took a quiz in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. Another professor took his students through the ruins of ancient Rome.

Gorman’s classes were in English, but her academic semester wasn’t a Roman holiday. She wrote many research papers. She also took an Italian language course. She said she found classes challenging but enjoyed every minute. Classes only ran four days a week, so she toured Italy during her three-day weekends. After the semester ended in May, Gorman traveled around Europe for about six weeks, often on amazingly cheap flights ($10 from Rome to London).

She came back home with about 25 units of academic credit and a cappuccino habit, which turned out to be much more expensive in the United States than in Italy, where the espresso drink will set you back only about 80 cents.

“You should all study abroad,” Gorman told a handful of Visual Arts students during a panel last Tuesday.

Stein in Turkey's Goreme Valley, famous for its "fairy chimneys," rock churches carved into the face of cliffs, and underground cities, used as safe havens for fleeing Christians under persecution.

That same day, in the courtyard of the International Center, Tom Stein, an international studies major, echoed Gorman’s comments. He spent a semester in Hungary with UC EAP last academic year. “It’s the best thing I did while I was in college,” he said.

As he traveled around Europe, Stein also realized each country had a different view of Americans and the United States. Bosnians welcomed him and were excited that an American had taken the trouble to visit their country. But in Turkey, a cab driver told Stein how much he hated the U.S. government and its policies.

When asked about his time in Hungary, he said he learned a lot about himself. He had never really left the United States before and always wanted to see the world, he said. Finding himself in a foreign land where he didn’t speak the language allowed him to become more self-confident. “It’s up to you to make things happen,” said Stein, who is quiet and soft-spoken. “It makes you a lot more independent, a lot more capable. You become very deliberate.”

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