Q&A with Berkeley Study Abroad

Deciding to study abroad can be a complicated process complete with the intimidating task of choosing from more than 40 countries and all that daunting paperwork. Luckily, The Daily Californian had the opportunity to chat with members of the Berkeley Study Abroad office, including Diane Marcus, associate director of marketing, Laura Shanks, publications and production specialist, and Barbara Tassielli, assistant director of advising, via phone and email to answer some of the perplexing questions you might have.

The Daily Californian: What are some benefits of studying abroad? Why would you recommend it to students?

Berkeley Study Abroad: It sounds like such a simple question. Well, in studying abroad, students can expand the boundaries of the classroom, experiencing what they’ve been reading or learning about first hand. The world is very interconnected, and global citizenry has become increasingly important. In most BSA programs, Berkeley students can earn credits when they go abroad. In addition, financial aid and scholarships are available.

DC: Both the Berkeley Summer Abroad and UCEAP programs have seen the number of participants increase dramatically over the years; what are some of the factors that might explain some of the increase in students studying abroad?

BSA: There has been some growth, but we would like to see much more. Expansion of options has played a role, including offering internships abroad. I think students are increasingly understanding the role that studying abroad can play in their intercultural understanding as well as their career growth.

To better serve Berkeley students there was a reorganization about three or four years ago in which all of the study abroad office options came under one roof for UC Berkeley. In the past, the UCEAP program was completely separate and then there was, at that time we called travel study program — two completely separate programs. Berkeley students would have to go to two different places to find out what they wanted to do. After this merge happened, those two programs now are under this one umbrella called Berkeley Study Abroad.

DC: Over the last decade, western Europe saw the biggest increase in enrollment. Why have more students been heading to Europe? In addition, places such as East Asia, Latin America, south and southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa have decreased over the years. What are some factors that might explain some of these trends?

BSA: For EAP, the growth in Europe enrollments is largely due to the expansion of short-term options in English.  The decrease in “non-traditional” study abroad locations, (such as) Latin America, South and Southeast Asia, Africa, is possibly connected to the expansion of options in Europe in English, but the decreases aren’t as sharp as the increases for Europe in overall world-wide proportions. Students sometimes cite the need to graduate as soon as possible, as a contributing factor in the desire for a shorter-term option abroad.

DC: Why might students choose not to study abroad?

BSA: We hear from students the reasons they don’t go abroad are: they’re fearful of of getting behind in their studies; they’re gonna miss out; they’re not gonna graduate on time. We want to make it possible for students to continue their academic progress while they’re going abroad.

Over the next year or two, we will start focusing on that aspect of it to help make study abroad more accessible. We’ve also been working more on scholarships and financial aid for the Berkeley students to make it more accessible in that way as well.

DC: What are the advantages or disadvantages of studying abroad during the summer versus a semester?

BSA: A disadvantage could be that you don’t get your summer off, which is not necessarily a bad thing. They’re intensive programs with shorter time frames, but the intensive aspect is an advantage as well because you can get your credit while you’re traveling to these amazing locations. A lot of students who do it in the summer feel like they’re not missing out on a term; they’re not missing out on fall semester.

DC: If a student isn’t sure of what program or even what country they want to study abroad in, how do you help narrow down their possibilities?

BSA: The best thing for them is to talk to an advisor. We have a whole team of study abroad advisors in Stephens Hall on campus and they know all the programs that are offered, when, what the focus of the programs are, and they really help students a lot in narrowing down what’s going to be the best possibility for them. There’s (also) a financial aid counselor (at Stephens Hall) who’s there specifically for study abroad, so the student can go there and get all those kinds of questions answered.

DC: What are some tips you would give potential study abroad students about the application process?

BSA: Start looking at what you want to do early! Our advisors in Stephens Hall can help you plan your journey.

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