Studying Abroad Experiences

Anybody who’s studied abroad will tell you they had the time of their lives while abroad. I started working at the UCSB Education Abroad Program office in my second year of college. Before this job, I never really had any concept of what studying abroad was all about. But after interacting with my coworkers and hearing all their amazing stories, I wanted to share their stories to provide some personal experiences to give others a glimpse into what this beautiful world is all about.

  1. 1. Karl T.

    Where/when did you go abroad and for what major?

    “I went to the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom from Sept. 2018 to June 2019. My major is History.”

    What was the application process like for you?

    “The application process was a little intimidating with the amount of paperwork we had to fill out and the academic planning, but once that was out of the way it was very smooth.”

    What type of classes did you take?

    “I mostly took my Upper-Division units for my major, but I also took one film class on contemporary British cinema which was very unique.”

    What was your favorite memory from being abroad?

    “My absolute favorite memory was having the opportunity to see Prince Harry and Meghan Markel in person right outside my dorm and greeting Meghan herself and shaking her hand!”

    What’s one thing you could tell someone who’s considering going abroad?

    “Go for it! It’s a scary thing to think about being far from friends and family at first, but that liberation and independence you receive when being abroad, the more you learn about yourself and living on your own, and just growing personally through being in a new country are just some of many ways that shape you to appreciate the world more for its diversity of cultures and to grow yourself into a greater person.”

  2. 2. Yitzel J.

    Where/when did you go abroad and for what major?

    “I studied abroad in an immersion at the university of Barcelona program for the spring semester. I am a Political Science major with a minor in History!”

    What was the application process like for you?

    “The application process was very overwhelming. As a first-generation student, I faced various obstacles trying to figure out what was the best program for me. No one in my family had ever studied abroad, let alone travel outside of the U.S and Mexico. It was even harder explaining to my parents the process and reasons as to why studying abroad was the best thing I could do for myself.  Despite these challenges, I had great help from the EAP office. Speaking to Peer advisors and my regional advisors was a great help.”

    What type of classes did you take?

    “I took classes for my major at the department of law studies in the University of Barcelona. I took law courses alongside local students. I was able to enhance my Spanish speaking skills, learn about my major from an international perspective, and better immerse myself in the city life.”

    What was your favorite memory from being abroad?

    “My favorite memory abroad... my whole experience really. Living in Barcelona was an eye-opening experience. I achieved a level of personal growth and independence I would not have achieved anywhere else. I’m grateful for every memory, walking down the streets in awe, getting churros with friends, traveling around Europe, and making friendships that will last a lifetime”

    What’s one thing you could tell someone who’s considering going abroad?

    “If you’re thinking about going abroad, do it. It might seems impossible or overwhelming, but I like to tell others, if you have the privilege to take on these types of opportunities you cannot let them pass by. There is a whole world out there to see.”

  3. 3. Joy G.

    Where/when did you go abroad and for what major?

    “I’m a fourth-year Global Studies and French double major. I studied abroad two times during my third year – I went participated in a Development Studies Program in Dakar, Senegal during fall of 2018, and the Institute for Field Education in Paris, France during spring of 2019.”

    What was the application process like for you?

    "The application process through UCEAP is pretty straightforward. You submit things like your passport and visa photos, fill out a reflective questionnaire about your program and why you chose it, and fill out an Academic Planning Form. All of this is supposed to give you some insight about why you’re going on the program that you are choosing and also think ahead a little bit about how your program will impact your academic progress. For my program in Paris, I also had to undergo the extensive French visa process (while I was in Senegal), so that required a lot of planning ahead as well.  I was really meticulous about applying to scholarships to make it affordable – I ended up getting the Promise Award, the Gilman Scholarship, and a few other private scholarships in addition to my financial aid."

    What type of classes did you take?

    "In Senegal I was enrolled in a Development Studies Program, where I took all of my classes in French. That included a Public Health course (where we participated in a field research project in rural parts of Senegal), a Development Economics course, beginner’s Wolof, and Advanced French with a focus on development issues. I also participated in a Development Studies Practicum, where I interned at a Senegalese women’s rights organization and wrote a research paper about access to family planning services. In Paris, I did the Institute for Field Education. The first five weeks of the program, we took classes conducted entirely in French on French society and history. Each student was then placed at an internship at a French organization that matched the student’s professional and academic interests. The capstone project of the program is a 30-page research paper written entirely in French. As a student with an interest in nonprofit and international development work, I was placed at a nonprofit that works with African migrants experiencing various health issues. I wrote my research paper on language politics and linguistic diversity among this population."

    What was your favorite memory from being abroad?

    "It’s hard to choose just one memory! In Senegal, most of my favorite memories include eating meals around the bowl with my Senegalese host family as we had conversations in French and Wolof (on that note, Senegalese food in general is just amazing – I was very well-fed during my stay there and I ended up gaining ten pounds!). Some runner-ups for favorite memories include: camping in Lompoul Desert and watching the sunrise, spending a week with rural hosts and shadowing active Peace Corps volunteers, and going to Friday evening Islamic services with my host brother. In Paris, I loved living in a foyer (which is a French dormitory for people under the age of 25, without affiliation to a specific university) and making close friendships with other young French professionals. Aside from that, I loved participating in the weekly public lunches and health workshops hosted by the nonprofit I interned for, experiencing French cuisine (I loved crème brûlée, French onion soup and confit de canard in particular), and having such easy access to other cities in France and in Europe."

    What’s one thing you could tell someone who’s considering going abroad?

    "My first piece of advice to someone going abroad would be to go into the experience with an open-mind – it will be hard and different from what you expected! Developing relationships with people and understanding different cultures takes time, so don’t rush yourself and don’t be afraid to lean on the resources you have available to you. Also, you will be surprised at the connections you are still making and lessons you learn months after your program is done. Soooo, GO FOR IT!"

  4. 4. Wonu F.

    Wonu’s experience differs from the others in that she had an internship abroad instead of actual classes! She worked with a company in Singapore and describes her experience below.

    Where/when did you go abroad and for what major?

    “I went abroad in Singapore through the global internships program. I went for the summer of 2019-- left right after spring quarter and came back in middle of August. I am a Global Studies major.”

    What was the application process like for you?

    “The application process was super easy. You just kind of apply, and everyone who applies gets accepted. They find an internship program for you based on your resume and where you tell them where you want to be placed, and they place you at a company, which I think is really cool. Although the placements aren’t perfect, they were interesting!”

    What type internship did you have?

    “My internship was at an international jewelry festival company in Singapore called Jeweluxe. Basically, it’s a 10-day festival, and me and my co-interns (a girl from Texas, a girl from Japan, and my friend from UCSB as well) all worked on contacting jewelers, updating the website, and trying to recruit new jewelers which was really cool. It was a lot of marketing and sales, which really showed us what it was like to be in an office.”

    What was your favorite memory from being abroad?

    “My favorite memory from abroad was probably trying the foods and drinks from a different culture. But besides that, just being in a city again! SB is so chill, and it was really cool to be in a fast-paced setting. Being able to go out for Ladies Night and Singapore’s National Independence Day which was really dope.”

    What’s one thing you could tell someone who’s considering going abroad?

    “You should definitely go! It’s going to change your life, and no matter where you go, you’re going to find interesting people from all over and it will be a really great experience that you’ll never forget. Definitely do it. Money shouldn’t be an obstacle because there’s some very cheap places to go abroad, just work and save up to go. It’s a life changing experience.”

Studying abroad is definitely an experience everyone should partake in. It is a great way to step out of your comfort zone, meet new people, learn a new culture, and maybe even learn a new language! Best of all, you'll learn so many new things about yourself and you'll grow so much as an individual. So, what're you waiting for?! Get out there and see the world!