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At 50 years, UC Education Abroad Program moves learning out of the lecture hall

European Jewish history is not a subject that UC Berkeley junior Mikayla Lyles would normally go out of her way to study. But over eight weeks this summer, the media studies major not only went out of her way, but across foreign cities and countries to immerse herself in the subject.

The trek through Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic was part of a program created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP). Lyles and eight other students from across the UC system joined UC Irvine German professor Glenn Levine on the ultimate field trip, exploring medieval synagogues and ritual baths, touring old cemeteries, visiting Holocaust sites and hearing firsthand stories from local historians.

“It’s been a long-term fantasy of mine to travel around and actually show people the things I’m talking about,” said Levine, who has taught a large lecture course on European Jewish history for years.

The group taking Levine’s course this summer included students from five UC campuses, in majors ranging from psychology to mechanical engineering. Most, like Lyles, had never been abroad; none was a history or Jewish studies major.

Levine’s course was one of three faculty-led tours offered this summer by UCEAP. They included a course by UC Irvine professor Isaac Scherson on 21st-century technology and the digital divide; and a course on religion, secularism and civil society taught by UC Riverside professor Vivian-Lee Nyitray.

The programs take UC courses out of the lecture hall and into the world — and they represent what UCEAP directors say is a promising new model for study abroad.

Faculty-led study-abroad programs on individual UC campuses have grown both in number and in popularity over the last several years. Rather than spend a semester or a year attending a foreign university, students in these shorter, intensive sessions travel in small groups with UC faculty and learn about their subjects directly in the countries and cultures they are studying.

Intensely immersive, but shorter in duration than the more traditional education abroad experience, these programs fill a need for students who might otherwise not have the time or resources to participate, said Emilia Doerr, UCEAP systemwide marketing and communications director.

“Year-long immersion has been the bedrock of our program as it offers maximum benefit and value for study-abroad participants,” Doerr said, “but we see more and more students interested in shorter-term programs, and we want to be able to meet the needs of these students as well.”

Launched in 1962, UC’s Education Abroad Program has grown to become the largest undergraduate study abroad program in the country, having sent more than 81,500 students abroad and hosted almost 25,000 students from partner institutions in other countries.

For more, see Academic Affairs Communications Coordinator Nicole Freeling’s full story, which includes a slideshow of the Levine course, as well as these resources:

>>UC Education Abroad Program

>>State Assembly resolution commending UCEAP

>>UC Education Abroad Program 50th anniversary

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