UC Education Abroad Program celebrates 50th anniversary

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In 1962, the UC Education Abroad Program sent 80 UC students to its location at the University of Bordeaux in France. One hundred thousand students and 38 countries later, the program is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

EAP was begun in 1962 by William Allaway, who was hired by the university specifically to create a study abroad program aimed at making the UC system an international player, according to Briana Sapp, a senior analyst of the UCEAP director’s office.

“After the war, the world was starting to think in terms outside the U.S.,” said Sapp. “There was a desire as a UC to embrace the internationalization of the campus.”

Since then, the program has expanded to include an exchange program for students from abroad to spend a semester, quarter or year at a UC campus. Including the students who come the university from other universities worldwide, the program has served close to 100,000 students at more than 120 universities around the world.

Members of the first generation of EAP students returned to Bordeaux earlier this month for a four-day event to commemorate the program’s 50th anniversary. Marlene Cowan, a UC Berkeley alumna who was a member of the first class, said going abroad gave her the opportunity to learn about her major — French — firsthand.

“I was able to learn about another culture through experience,” said Cowan.

In addition to learning about French culture, the experience of studying in Bordeaux gave Cowan an advantage in her career.

“It provided me with wonderful opportunities,” said Cowan. “It gave me a foot up in competition for jobs. I was able to go in right away after graduating to teach at a community college. I could not have done that if I was not able to speak French fluently.”

Though many more students have gone through the program, which allows students to take courses abroad that give them credit to fulfill UC degree requirements, the impact of the study abroad experience remains largely the same as it was 50 years ago.

“It gives a lot more meaning to our education, because when you go out there, you see a different culture and get a sense of what life is like somewhere,” said Maria Hurtado, a UC Berkeley senior and EAP student ambassador who studied abroad in Chile in spring 2011. “It opens your mind and changes your perspective.”

Jonathan Winters, a re-entry UC Berkeley senior, said studying abroad offers students the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the world in a way that is different from tourism. After visiting parts of Europe, Central America and China as a tourist, Winters studied abroad at the University of Cape Town in South Africa last semester.

“You are on the outside looking into your own country,” said Winters. “It turns around one’s perspective of the world we live in.”

Contact Andrea Guzman at [email protected].