58.9 F

Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

A guide to study abroad

Thinking of studying abroad, but have no idea where to start?

UC Davis offers a wide variety of study abroad options to serve a range of needs. When choosing a program, students have to consider length of stay, housing, language and internships offered, among other things.

The nine students below have weighed in on their study abroad experiences and offer advice to potential travelers.

Quarter Abroad:

If you’re restricted by time or finances, you might go abroad for only a quarter.

Naseem Rad, a fourth-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, spent a total of five months in Madrid, Spain during Fall Quarter of her third-year.
Rad said she would have loved to stay for more than a quarter, but found it difficult to find science classes related to her major. Instead, she took Spanish language classes and was able to add a Spanish minor after her return to Davis.

“It was a good experience in making a home for yourself,” Rad said. “I had neighborhoods that I knew really well, and a lunch place that I loved to go to.”
According to Rad, it was odd to come back to Davis after spending time abroad because her last quarter had been so vastly different than that of her classmates.

“You’ve been doing and seeing so much, but it seemed like nothing had changed at all in Davis,” Rad said. “But of course everyone was excited to have me back and to hear about my trip.”

Year Abroad:
Studying abroad for an entire year is a big commitment, both of time and money. However, to fifth-year mechanical engineering major Colin Brown, it was worth it.

Brown went abroad to Madrid, Spain through the UC Education Abroad Program which allows students to commit for either a semester or a year at a time, with the option to extend their programs.

One of Brown’s biggest concerns going into his year abroad was that his relationships with people from home would change in his absence.

“I was worried that everyone was going to forget about me, but I actually found that that doesn’t happen,” Brown said. “You think about what you’re going to miss out on while you’re gone, but then there are the crazy things that you experience over there, [abroad].”

He said that homesickness was never a real issue for him, but that during the last month of his stay in Spain, he was ready to come home.

Instead of worrying about missing out back home, he said his biggest piece of advice is to just put yourself out there from the beginning.

“Of course it can be uncomfortable, but the earlier you face that fact head on and dive into it, the better your experience is going to be,” Brown said.

Different Language:

Cory Forbes, a fourth-year international relations major, attended classes at the University of Florence in Florence, Italy last fall, while having no knowledge of the Italian language prior to his trip.

“I figured that it would be overwhelming, but it was a lot more overwhelming than I thought it would be,” Forbes said. “But after two or three months there, I only used Italian when I went out.”

According to Forbes, the rapidness of speech in Italy was also difficult to adjust to.

“The main thing when people are speaking fast is to catch a few simple phrases that you know, and then try to piece together what they’re asking,” Forbes said. “Italians would notice when your Italian was struggling and would switch over to English, and that’s when you know you’re not doing well speaking Italian.”

Forbes, who is now continuing his study of Italian at UC Davis, said that it was much easier to learn the language while abroad.

“My language usage and grammar was better, and I got more of a grasp on the language,” Forbes said. “Here, it’s a little spottier because we don’t meet as much and the lessons aren’t fully in Italian.”

Internships Abroad and Working with Different Languages:

Taylor Chin, a fourth-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, spent fall quarter of his third-year in Oaxaca, Mexico attending classes and participating in a health-related internship at a local clinic.

Chin said he was able to see things on his trip that he would never have been able to in the United States as an undergraduate student.

“I saw natural births and C-sections, and some different kinds of surgeries,” Chin said. “In the U.S., we don’t have the freedom of seeing those types of procedures, but in Mexico we were more free as students to see whatever we wanted to see.”

Since Chin went to Mexico without any knowledge of Spanish, he did experience a language barrier in the hospitals, but found that local doctors were willing to help with communication.

“I didn’t know what I was getting into, and it was challenging because all of the people only speak Spanish,” Chin said. “But the doctors and patients that I worked with were willing to listen to me, and the experience improved my communication skills in both English and Spanish.”

For fourth-year history major Dana Bugaj, the language barrier served as a deterrent, leading her to choose an Australian placement through the University Writing Program.

“I chose Australia because it would allow me to do my internship in an English-speaking country,” Bugaj said. “I felt like I would get more out of it without the language barrier.”

Bugaj also wanted to assimilate into the work environment, and said that she felt that she would always be the foreigner if she didn’t study in a country that spoke English as the primary language.


In most study abroad programs, students have the option between a homestay with a family, or living in their own apartment in the city.

Jillian Giblin, a second-year exercise biology major, spent last summer in a Granada, Spain homestay program. She said she chose the homestay because she wanted to immerse herself fully into the culture of Spain.

“People who lived in apartments on their own didn’t acclimate as much to the differences between the U.S. and Spain,” Giblin said. “I made a lasting connection with my host parents, who[m] I now call my parents. I ate meals with them and hung out with them, and it really integrated me into their culture.”

For a successful homestay, Giblin believes it’s important that students are flexible.

“I know people had issues with their host parents because they weren’t willing to follow the rules and the ways of living,” Giblin said. “It is a different feeling than the typical college experience, because you’re living with them, and by the end of the trip, it’s like you’re living with your parents.”

She said she recommends that students go into homestays if they’re studying abroad mainly for a cultural experience.

“When you’re living with other American students, you can miss out on the different culture,” Giblin said.

Erin Golackson, a fourth-year anthropology major chose to stay in an apartment in France because she knew that at the end of the day, she would want some personal space.

“I knew that I would be speaking a lot of French day to day, and be immersed in the culture all day long, which can be mentally grading,” Golackson said. “I wanted to have my own space to come home and unwind, whereas a homestay can be intimidating because you have to come home and experience all of the nuances of the culture.”

Prior to her travels in Europe, Golackson said she had a fantastic experience in an Australian homestay program. Golackson said that the idea of living alone in Paris really appealed to her, and ended up staying in a small studio apartment.

According to Golackson, the main thing to think about when choosing between a homestay and an apartment, is to know yourself.
“Know your tendencies and what you need in a living situation,” Golackson said. “No matter what, try to acquaint yourself with the culture before you go.”

Food makes up a significant part of traveling abroad and experiencing other cultures. Caity Tremblay, a third-year comparative literature major, spent time in both Egypt and Morocco, and shared some of her experiences with food and entertainment in the two countries.

One of Tremblay’s most vivid memories was when she witnessed a sheep being slaughtered for a three-day festival.

“I didn’t take it as well as I thought I would. Others were able to watch and then eat it, and I kind of half watched and then couldn’t eat it,” Tremblay said. “I couldn’t take the [sheep] screaming, that was very upsetting for me.”

Tremblay realized that food preparation was a major cultural difference between Morocco and the United States.

“We’re very separated from that in America, we’re not normalized to it,” Tremblay said. “It also means that we’re not very aware of where our food comes from and what it actually means to be eating animals every day. When I came back to the states and went to the grocery store, the meat section disgusted me.”

In Egypt, Tremblay said the food options were fascinating, citing the iconic food of “koshari,” a substantial soup made of lentils, garbanzo beans and noodles in a lemony tomato sauce.

“In Egypt, we went out to hookah bars, which are really popular there. It’s not like here,” Tremblay said. “In Morocco, we went to a classic belly dancing performance, but I think that it was mostly set up for tourists. I got the impression that belly dancing was generally more of a private or intimate thing.”
In general, Tremblay said that people were really respectful of her food choices as long as she was not uptight about it.

“People were accommodating and wanted you to have a good experience,” Tremblay said.

How to apply:
To apply for a study abroad program, students can visit the UC Davis Study Abroad Office on 207 Third St. Suite 120 or go online to studyabroad.ucdavis.edu.
For fall or summer 2014 programs, Enrollment Packet materials are due by April 4, 2014.

Submit the items below with your enrollment forms:
– 1 2” x 2” color headshot with your name, program, and 2014 written on the back.
– $300 non-refundable deposit, (check or money order made out to “UC Regents”)
– Enrollment Checklist printed from studyabroad.ucdavis.edu
– Statement of Intent to Enroll
– Health Clearance
– Unofficial transcript
– Copy of valid passport or receipt/proof that you have applied for one.
– Summer or Quarter Abroad contract


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here