Despite low enrollment in some programs, UC Davis Summer Abroad thrives

To some university students, the college experience expands beyond the wild fraternity parties, all-nighters and diet consisting of Hot Pockets and Top Ramen into a completely different world of unexpected adventures studying abroad.

With 43 different summer abroad programs to choose from at UC Davis, students can spend four weeks of their summer studying literature in Europe, South America or India, studying food science in China or genetics in the United Kingdom and Sweden. However, this summer, the number of summer abroad programs has decreased from 43 to 41.

Due to low enrollment, UC Davis Summer Abroad had to cancel their Costa Rica and South Korea programs. According to Education Abroad Center associate director Zachary Frieders, the canceled programs required 10 to 12 students, but since this number was not met, the programs were canceled.

“Our policy is that we hate to cancel courses, so often what we will do is send courses that are losing money rather than cancel them just because in the future we think they’re going to go. The problem is if you cancel a course one year, it becomes much more difficult the next year,” said Summer Abroad faculty director Eric Schroeder.

According to Schroeder, when enrollment is slow in a given program, the deadline may be extended or the summer abroad program may get in touch with students that may be interested in the program by giving an announcement of the program in a class that’s teaching within the subject of the program. For example, if there is a literature summer abroad program with low enrollment, an announcement might be made in an introductory English or University Writing Program (UWP) course to advertise the program.

While enrollment was low in the South Korea and Costa Rica program, Schroeder claims that this is not an isolated event, and overall, this has not been a good year for study abroad programs in general. According to Schroeder, the bad state of the economy and the fact that the additions of study abroad programs has increased faster than student growth have hindered enrollment for study abroad programs this year.

“I think there are definitely the countries that are very popular for study abroad, European countries, and I think it’s just because people know a lot about these countries and there’s a kind of pull towards going to those countries and there’s not as much information about the other ones. And I think that’s part of it. And I think the other thing is that it depends on the courses being taught,” said senior art studio and technocultural studies major and Study Abroad peer advisor Alex Sarkisian. Sarkisian has studied in Italy and Scotland.

Despite the cancellation of two programs, this year has been a good one for UC Davis Summer Abroad as student enrollment has increased compared to previous years. According to Frieders, there are approximately 860 students enrolled, which relative to last year is an increase of about 6.5 percent.

“We have 860 signed up for programs, which is an all-time high for us, and we’re the only summer abroad program in the UC system that actually grew this year,” Schroeder said.

The low enrollment in the two canceled programs is not a first-time phenomenon, since there has never been a year when no summer abroad programs were not cancelled, according to Frieders.

“Realistically, it’s not going to happen that you’re going to fill every spot, but, you know, 860 people, I’ll take that any day. That’s a huge number of people going on these programs,” Schroeder said.

Since 1998, the number of summer abroad programs has increased from six to 43 and is expected to continue increasing, according to Schroeder. The cost to study abroad in one of the summer programs varies between the programs, but starts at $4,000. Although studying abroad may be expensive, it is recommended that students do so, not only for the personal experience, but because it gives students an advantage over those who have not studied abroad when applying for a job or graduate school.

“First of all, it’s the best experience you’ll have as an undergrad. The other thing is that you never hear, ‘Oh, I regret studying abroad.’ You always hear people who are about to graduate and regretting that they never went abroad,” Sarkisian said. “For me, it was huge not only on the academic level, because the classes that I took abroad were so geared towards my interest, which just kind of shot me in a direction not only in my academics but for my career.”

For more information about summer abroad programs, visit summer-abroad.ucdavis.edu or ucdavisabroad.com.

LILIANA NAVA OCHOA can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.

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