Study Abroad: Accomplish Your Goals Anywhere in the World
From afar, the notion of studying abroad feels like a dream. One quarter, you are going through the normal motions of the ten-week quarter system beneath the sunshine and shade of UCI. The next quarter? You could go to class on the subway to greet cobblestone paths and brick buildings older than the United States. You could dine on abundant street food with aromas that will be remembered long after you go home.
Studying abroad entails living in another country, temporarily enrolling in one of their universities, and living like a citizen in that new place. Programs like UCEAP (the University of California Education Abroad Program) allows UC students to choose from hundreds of universities outside the US and take classes that will count towards their degree. I am a UCEAP returnee from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Because UCEAP is part of the UC System, I was able to receive financial aid for my fall semester abroad. Beyond the financial aid that I received to study abroad, there are always several scholarships are offered every year to study abroad applicants (Check them out here). I would not have been able to follow my dreams of studying abroad if it weren’t for the financial and academic support of UCEAP. During my fall semester abroad, I traveled to several other countries by myself and pursued my passion for writing in a way I had never done before (read more about it on my website, mishaponnuraju.com). Due to UCEAP’s assistance, I got to wake up every day in a city that challenged me to be my best self and made me love my life with even more fierceness.
Beyond the joy of traveling, it is surprisingly common for all students to find ways to accomplish their academic and professional goals abroad. It is often assumed that STEM students are unable to to spend a quarter abroad due to the rigid nature of a their typical four-year plan; there’s the assumption that STEM majors have too many labs to take and not enough time. On the contrary, STEM majors definitely have the option to study internationally. The STEM presence is so strong that there are even Engineering and ICS peer mentors to be found in the Study Abroad office in Student Service II. As for biological sciences students, taking physics courses abroad in England are popular (especially the program at the University of Sussex), but similar programs are located in Ireland, Scotland, China, and Cyprus. Beyond the summer physics intensive, exciting programs in Costa Rica offer a different experience to biology students. Alana Tova Porat, for instance, is an incoming fourth year student who specializes in Human Biology and will soon be studying abroad in Costa Rica. As a future doctor, several aspects of her trip will help prepare for her medical career: “I was specifically looking for a program where I could practice Spanish and get bio credit. It’s really important to me that when I’m working with patients in the future I’m able to converse with them comfortably, so I can build trust with them and best serve them. I anticipate having patients who speak Spanish given the kind of work I want to do with underserved populations in Southern California.”
These goals can expand into other areas as well, including social sciences and public policy. Blaine Valencia, a UCI graduate who majored in Political Science and Film and Media Studies studied abroad in Hong Kong. He chose this city due to the political movements of the time, such as the 2014 college-led strike, which snowballed into the Umbrella Movement. Blaine reminisces about his experiences as he explains that the “scale of this collective political action coupled with the dynamism and spectacle of the territory’s deep relationship with global cinema inspired curiosity. I selected UCEAP Hong Kong as my destination to allow me the opportunity to explore a vibrant, historically rich, and controversial world center.”
Study abroad introduces an exciting prospect of being an adventure-hungry twenty-something. For the student traveler, adventure is ingrained in the fabric of the entire experience. It offers the opportunity for immense growth. Andrea Porras, an International Studies and French double major, spent last fall quarter studying at Science Po, a distinguished university in Paris, France and discusses her desire for inner and outer exploration: “I’ve always wanted to travel since I was little and as I got older, studying abroad was the next step. It’s a huge world out there and getting to explore even just a small part of it feels so rewarding. You learn just as much about yourself as you do where you stay.” When studying abroad is so accessible and there’s so much to learn, it is an opportunity every UCI student should consider.