Study abroad FAQs

How do I choose a study abroad program?

Visit the Berkeley Study Abroad website to explore programs that may be compatible with your College of Engineering degree program. One popular option is the University of California’s Education Abroad Program (UCEAP). You earn UC course credit and may use your UC financial aid. However, not all universities or countries may be offered, and some programs are available only for a full academic year.

The Berkeley Study Abroad website also covers the campus’s own Berkeley Abroad program, which also offers UC credit and the use of UC financial aid, as well as affiliate programs and independent programs. When looking at affiliate and independent programs, note that academic credit and financial aid can vary. You may also be required to take a planned leave of absence.

You’re welcome to visit the Berkeley Study Abroad office in 160 Stephens Hall to browse offerings and talk to advisers.

What are the college’s academic requirements for studying abroad?

  • The minimum GPA is set by the student’s selected overseas institution.
  • Students cannot be subject to dismissal the semester prior to departure.
  • The Reading and Composition requirement must be completed beforehand.
  • Students must submit an academic plan to their Engineering Student Services (ESS) adviser at the time of the initial application.
  • Students must meet with their ESS adviser to have their study abroad academic planning form reviewed and signed.

What are the college’s general policies about studying abroad?

  • Students can go for up to two semesters.
  • Students are encouraged to go during their sophomore or junior year.
  • Transfer students should try to go during their third or fourth semester.
  • The latest a student should go is the first semester of senior year. Students who go abroad in their last semester might delay their graduation.
  • An additional semester can be granted for study abroad.
  • We will waive the college’s senior residency rule for students in UCEAP.
  • Students who want to take technical courses for their major while on study abroad should get the syllabi and have Berkeley faculty review it beforehand. The official evaluation of the courses will be done when the student returns. Students must bring the syllabi and course descriptions to their ESS adviser, who will give them the course evaluation forms and instruction on how to have the courses reviewed.
  • If you have selected an independent program that requires a planned leave of absence, consult with your ESS adviser.
  • Students who are in a simultaneous degree program must get approval from both colleges to participate in study abroad. If their simultaneous degree plan is for nine semesters, the College of Engineering will approve a tenth semester for studying abroad, if necessary.

How long should I go?

You can go for a summer, a semester or an academic year. In a year-long program, students will likely need to take engineering courses for at least one semester.

You should choose the option that allows you complete your engineering degree in a timely manner. With careful planning, many students can complete a study abroad program without delaying graduation. If needed, students who participate in a study abroad program will be granted one additional semester to complete their degree requirements.

When should I go?

The typical time to study abroad is at the start of junior year, but UCEAP has created summer and semester programs geared toward sophomores who need to fulfill breadth requirements or for those who want to learn a language. Freshmen can apply as early as January to participate in UCEAP’s sophomore-oriented programs, which start in the summer or fall.

Students who choose to wait until senior year may still be able to successfully incorporate study abroad into their degree program, though it can affect graduation plans. Senior residency is an important campus and college requirement. Students who want to study abroad their senior year should discuss this requirement and ways to fulfill it with their ESS adviser.

What should I study?

We encourage students to take a balanced load of engineering and non-engineering courses, completing breadth requirements and fulfilling upper-division requirements. Transferability of coursework isn’t an issue for students at UCEAP campuses, but students in some affiliate and independent programs must look into this. Advisers in the Berkeley Study Abroad office can answer your questions about transferring credit.

Students should also consider whether study-abroad coursework will satisfy major requirements. The courses need to be evaluated by the department before credit is given. If you can get a course syllabus prior to leaving, you can learn if the course is equivalent by obtaining a course evaluation form from your ESS adviser. This will let you know whether you’ll receive full subject credit, partial subject credit (whereby you need to complete a bridge course to fulfill the subject requirement) or receive no subject credit. If you wait until your return to handle this, you risk losing credit. Note that all courses used to fulfill major requirements must be taken for a letter grade.

What else should I consider?

  • International travel can be expensive. Check with the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office about scholarships and grants that are still available to you while you are off-campus, and to fill out any necessary forms. (Some aid sources require a planned leave of absence request, for example.) Follow budgeting guidelines carefully.
  • Study abroad will enhance your post-graduation prospects, but important employer recruiting events may take place while you are away.
  • To be eligible for honors, students must complete 43 Berkeley units for letter grades. Transfer students who wish to be considered for honors must choose UCEAP for study abroad, since all courses completed will then be considered as Berkeley units.
  • Universities in other countries may not be in session at the same time as Berkeley. For example, the typical academic calendar in the southern hemisphere (e.g., Australia) is January through December.
  • English is used at many of the UCEAP institutions. However, if you want to improve your foreign language skills, select a school where the official language of instruction is not English. On the other hand, keep in mind that the language skills necessary for studying, writing papers and taking exams in a foreign language are greater than the skills needed for recreational travel.
  • International study is full of potential rewards and opportunities for growth. But it’s not a good fit for everyone. Interested students should be honest with themselves about their openness and flexibility, desire to interact with others and ability to learn about new points of view.
  • Study abroad is also about being an ambassador. You become a part of some very complex and delicate relationships among Berkeley Engineering, the UC system and the host university and country. Your behavior reflects on the university and will affect the options other students will have in the future.

Where do I start?

It’s crucial to get an early start. You’ll have many steps to complete, and deadlines come up quickly:

  • Consult the Berkeley Study Abroad office to explore opportunities that suit your interests and fit your timing.
  • Discuss your interests with your ESS adviser. Make sure you understand your financial aid eligibility.
  • Once you have selected an option, follow application and pre-departure instructions carefully.
  • Talk with as many people as you can about your plans. Word-of-mouth is often the best guide to the true value of study abroad. Ask for referrals to other Berkeley students who have participated in the programs that interest you.