UC study abroad program aims to dramatically increase participation

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The University of California Education Abroad Program is taking action to support a nationwide drive to double the number of American students studying abroad by the end of the decade.

The UC study abroad program has joined more than 150 U.S. colleges and universities in the push to increase participation in study abroad programs as part of the Generation Study Abroad initiative of the Institute of International Education. To achieve this goal, UCEAP has pledged to increase the number of students studying abroad by 20 percent in the next five years.

Established in 1962, the UC-wide study abroad program currently serves all 10 campuses, offering options in more than 40 countries and allowing students to earn credit for their studies.

According to Briana Sapp, deputy to the associate vice provost and executive director of UCEAP, one of the main goals of the systemwide program is to encourage students to participate in global learning. Because this goal matches the larger aims of the initiative, Sapp said UCEAP wanted to give the national initiative the power of all 10 campuses.

“The world is getting smaller,” Sapp said. “Globalization is taking over, and it’s sneaking into our daily lives. If we’re producing students who don’t have any awareness beyond Berkeley, they’re at a disadvantage.”

UCEAP is one of four program options offered to UC Berkeley students by Berkeley Study Abroad. Students can also choose to participate in Berkeley Abroad, affiliate programs or independent programs.

Each year, approximately 1,200 UC Berkeley students study abroad. According to UCEAP Director of Marketing and Communications Emilia Doerr, 990 UC Berkeley students studied abroad through the systemwide program this academic year, making it the top UC campus in terms of UCEAP participants.

To bolster student involvement, the UC program plans to implement new initiatives, such as a focus on English instruction, Sapp said. The office predicts these programs, designed to be self-funded at minimum enrollment, will garner 200 new participants in the 2015-16 academic year.

The ultimate goal of the Generation Study Abroad initiative is to have 600,000 American students studying abroad annually by the end of the decade.

The UC study abroad program, which recently announced it will offer $1.2 million in scholarships for the next academic year, is popular among students who have financial reservations.

Approximately 70 percent of all participants apply their UC financial aid to the program.

The financial accessibility was one of the reasons UC Berkeley junior Alex Morton chose to spend her fall 2013 semester in Paris through the program.

“Studying abroad gave me a new perspective — it helped me get out of the Berkeley bubble,” Morton said. “It allowed me to realize I can be completely independent and resourceful.”

Contact Michelle Pitcher at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @michellepitcher.

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