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More Bruins are opting to study overseas

More Bruins are opting to study overseas

This year, a record 713 UCLA students are expected to study abroad — despite the turmoil in the Middle East and flu epidemics in Asia.

My stay opened a lot of doors culturally and linguistically, politically and personally.

BY AJAY SINGH
UCLA Today Staff
VOL. 24. NO.10 FEBRUARY 24, 2004

For Franchesca Cabrera, flamenco isn’t just a hobby — it’s her life. Yet it wasn’t until she traveled to Spain last spring that Cabrera, a UCLA world arts and cultures senior, discovered just why she was so attracted to flamenco.

"It is looked upon as a dark, deep art form," she said. "The idea of dancing to lyrics that express suffering, loss and love — that fascinates me."

Cabrera was among 582 UCLA students who traveled overseas in 2002-03 under the University of California’s Education Abroad Program (EAP), whose mission is to provide high-quality international education to UC students. This year, a record 713 UCLA students are expected to study abroad — despite the turmoil in the Middle East and flu epidemics in Asia. In fact, the volatile international climate seems to have encouraged students to go abroad.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, for example, many students preferred to remain in their host countries. "They learned a lot from being in a different environment," said Lindsey Daltro-Schram, EAP’s interim administrative director at UCLA.

"Many students feel that the program is one of the best hopes for international peace and understanding," said Scott Cooper, EAP associate director for academic integration at UC. "When the world intrudes on us, Americans get more interested in the world."

Interacting with foreigners also helps students develop the skills necessary to succeed in an increasingly globalized world. Eileen Fabunan, 22, a French and Francophone studies major at UCLA, is a case in point. She lived for a year in the French alpine city of Grenoble, studying French literature, culture and society. Although she found France’s political climate unsettling — the Iraq war was just around the corner — Fabunan was glad to be there. "I wasn’t just living in my bubble, but getting a different opinion," she said. "My stay opened a lot of doors culturally and linguistically, politically and personally." Fabunan now hopes to carve out a career in a French-speaking country as an international immigration law specialist.

Since EAP was launched in 1962, more than 40,000 students have gone abroad, including an annual average of 240 UCLA students. Over the years, the program’s scope has been greatly broadened. Initially conceived as a cultural exchange for students in their junior year, the program was opened to seniors and sophomores. A number of academic and discipline-specific "focus programs" were added. There are currently some 240 program options in 150 institutions in 35 countries.

Studying peace and security in Japan, tropical biology in Costa Rica and marine science in Australia are just a few of the programs EAP has offered. This year’s programs include such themes as "Globalization and China," "Transatlantic Dialogue" and "Comparative U.S.-Mexico," which encompasses everything from economic to cultural relations between the two countries. Each program is integrated into the UC campus curricula, and students are encouraged to take long-term courses for a minimum of two semesters. Courses are either organized by UC or in close partnership with host universities.

Students who study abroad dramatically improve their resumés. "Medical and law schools in particular are looking for something unusual," Cooper said. But in general, "students come back and tell us it was a totally transformative experience." Hardly surprising, given their extensive exposure to new academic perspectives, intellectual issues and applied problems.

Source: UCLA Today

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