Since applications for UC Davis Summer Abroad opened last Wednesday, the Education Abroad Center (EAC) has reported a record level of demand for the various programs offered, both new and old.
In a press release, EAC said that 122 students turned in packets on the first day alone – a number that doubles the previous record. The release also said some students were in line as early as 6 a.m. to guarantee their spots in a program.
Zak Frieders, associate director of the EAC, said in an e-mail interview that this increased interest is due largely to a change in student attitude toward studying abroad.
“The word-of-mouth for study abroad between students is growing,” he said. “Increasing numbers of students believe in the intrinsic value of an international experience to their academics, their career and their personal development.”
Frieders also pointed to a rise in support from academic advisors in the planning and coordination of new programs.
“We’re pleased to see more academic advisors supporting study abroad and becoming involved in outreach,” he said. “Four or five years ago we focused more on ‘why’ study abroad, now we find much of our time is now spent on ‘how’ to study abroad.”
Students concerned about whether or not their major will allow them to study abroad might be pleasantly surprised – EAC has made strong efforts to make sure programs exist wherever there is demand.
Eric Schroeder, Summer Abroad faculty director with EAC, described some of the new options available for this summer.
“One new program is ‘Oxford: Portal to Fantasy’ – fantasy literature. It has been very popular,” he said. “We also have Engineering 45 offered in South Korea, where there is a lot of fuel cell technology and green technology.”
Schroeder also said that focus has shifted away from the location of study abroad programs and more to areas of study.
“Location has become secondary to subject area. It’s important to develop programs in areas where there traditionally haven’t been programs,” he said.
Kathy Cunningham, Summer Abroad program manager, agreed that creating programs for underrepresented majors is key for generating the level of interest EAC has seen in the last two weeks.
“[Some] programs are very, very academically focused, namely the specialty programs that are drawing students from prior underserved majors like BioSci,” she said.
Although the current spike in applications for study abroad is primarily for this upcoming summer, EAC has seen increased interest in other programs as well. Frieders said that more students have even been applying to third party, non-UC study abroad opportunities.
“Applications for these [independent] programs will continue through spring quarter but so far the number of students seeking advising appears to be up 20 to 30 percent over last year,” he said.
Those considering a study abroad program should contact EAC sooner rather than later. Frieders noted that students are beginning the planning process for abroad earlier than ever.
“Staff advisors report students and parents contacting the EAC for information earlier in the students’ careers at Davis,” he said. “[And when] I facilitated a panel discussion in the Segundo dorms, there were approximately 40 to 50 students in attendance. I asked how many planned to study abroad and easily 90 percent raised their hands.”
Applications for Summer Abroad close April 1, but students are encouraged to send in applications as they are filled on a first come, first serve basis.
VICTOR BEIGELMAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.