Studying abroad through an independent program

So you want to study abroad. Your first move is probably to browse through the options offered by the UC Education Abroad Program, or UCEAP. But what happens when the program of your dreams doesn’t lie in the lengthy listings of university-approved foreign escapades?

In this case, you may want to check out independent study abroad programs.

Study Abroad Adviser Travis Pentz suggests independent programs for students interested in particular countries or universities not offered in UCEAP, such as Iceland or the University of Oxford. Additionally, it may be difficult to find programs that suit certain majors among UCEAP’s offerings.

“We have had students study architecture in Denmark or international development in Cameroon opportunities not available through UCEAP,” Pentz said.

Apart from the greater variety of destinations and subjects of study, independent programs can also open up the opportunity for students who do not meet UCEAP eligibility requirements in terms of their GPA, language background or course prerequisites as well as for those procrastinators among us who missed the university’s deadline, according to Pentz. Take note: Independent program deadlines are typically much, much later than the UCEAP deadlines.

But maybe best of all is the fact that independent programs can sometimes be more affordable, Pentz noted. This applies predominantly for out-of-state students instead of getting slapped with added out-of-state tuition while you’re not even in the state of California, you can cut a much better deal on your travels overseas.

There are a few things to keep in mind, though. Most importantly, students should know that units from approved independent programs will transfer back to Berkeley as transfer units instead of UC units, according to Pentz. He added, however, that although the courses you take abroad won’t appear on your UC transcript, you can still use them to fulfill major requirements. Just make sure to discuss the transferability of the courses you plan to take with your major department or college before you blast out of Berkeley.

Additionally, financial aid specific to UC Berkeley cannot be applied to independent programs, although federal and state aid potentially can be. Luckily, many independent study abroad programs often have their own financial aid available.

If you’re interested in going independent, though, Pentz advises students to begin the process early. With the vast array of options available, it can take some time to narrow down where you want to go. Especially for you indecisive folks.

Contact Madeline Wells at [email protected]