U.S. student participation in study abroad programs has more than tripled in the past 20 years, according to a 2012 report by the Institute of International Education. This past summer, more UC Berkeley students went abroad than the year before, working and studying at countries across the globe. Many went through programs offered through the UC system, but others chose to go independently or through alternative study abroad programs not affiliated with the UC.
To learn more about the types of overseas experiences students can participate in, The Daily Californian sat down with Tucker Hutchinson, the co-founder and marketing director, of a Berkeley-based startup that is a Yelp-like resource for study, volunteering, internship and teaching experiences abroad. Hutchinson, along with Mitch Gordon, a Haas alum and entrepreneur-in-residence at UC Berkeley Skydeck, founded GoOverseas.com in 2010 as a site high school graduates and college students can use to find financial and logistical information for programs offered by various private, public and non-profit agencies as well as reviews by individuals with relevant experience.
The web company — housed at UC Berkeley’s startup accelerator, Skydeck, in Downtown Berkeley — also collaborates with programs to write articles about strategies to fund an overseas program, stay safe and learn about different cultural norms while abroad. In an interview, Hutchinson talked about the experience of living abroad and offered tips for students interested in living outside the United States.
On finding an overseas experience
Tucker Hutchinson: The best advice is to approach this opportunity like choosing the best college (for you). You’d really have to research independently about the college before committing to it. In the same way, you have the responsibility to find an (overseas) program that’s good for you. Know that the world out there with international programs is massive. There are good programs and really bad ones, some of which are really expensive with less accreditation and transparency than applying to schools. Have conversations with people in the programs you are considering. Ask to contact alumni of the program. Be wary of time and money.
On choosing a program:
TH: Ideally, you should read reviews and ratings from students who have gone abroad and feel connection to (what they are saying). For example, maybe you want to study abroad and work a little less hard than you do at Berkeley. You can kind of identify with a reviewer if they say they had a really fun time on this program. But, if you you are going to think this not something I want to identify with, then don’t use that program. Most of deciding which program to go on is intuitive and trusting your gut.
On where U.S. students choose to study, work and volunteer:
TH: We have noticed patterns there. Within volunteering, people tend to go to places in the developing world, to countries like Kenya or Thailand or Vietnam. Europe is by far the most popular (continent) to study abroad in for American undergraduates. Teaching abroad is also popular and the demand for it is increasing all the time. With the economic downturn, recent grads who are unemployed can make a lot of money teaching English (in other parts of the world).
On GoOverseas.com being used by international students in the United States:
TH: For the foreseeable future, we are going from English-speaking countries to anywhere else in the world. And there is a lot of work to do there. Eventually, we will entertain the idea to translate the website into different language and focus on building out U.S. based programs for international students and participants. But, the U.S. (travel abroad) market is complex enough. To think about what does a Chinese student consider when studying abroad (here) is a massive market in its own right.