Joy. Fear. Hope. Concern. Traveling abroad for the first time comes with a tidal wave of emotions. It’s to be expected. You’ve never done anything like this before.

You can’t know or plan for everything before studying abroad, but you can make your starting point easier. Some UCEAP study abroad programs are better for seasoned travelers. Others make things like arrival, housing, activities, and overall experience easier for first-time travelers. If that’s you, read on for programs you should consider.


Join the Social Butterflies

Students riding bikes at Hangang River in South Korea

Anna Lippuner biking with study abroad friends in Korea

Friends make getting to know a new place easier. On these programs, a social life is baked right in. Even if you are shy or feel like an introvert, new friends will help you settle in quickly at these universities.

Lund University, Sweden

In Sweden, you don’t have to know Swedish. Everyone speaks English! In addition, the Student Nations at Lund University can help you feel at home in your new country. These welcoming social clubs will match you with local students to show you around. With its distinct student community, Lund feels more like a college town than a big city.

TIP: You can extend your stay easily in this program, which is super helpful if you fall in love with Lund and can’t imagine leaving.


Yonsei University, Korea

The Yonsei University Office of International Affairs in Seoul, South Korea organizes weekend trips to Jeju Island, classes to learn to make kimchi, and opportunities to see Nanta (non-verbal comedy shows). You can also pair up with a Korean student planning to visit California through Yonsei’s buddy program. In addition to having a local student host you in Korea, you have the option to host a Korean student in California after your return.



Study Abroad Over a Summer

Berlin Cathedral with ship on Spree river at sunset, Berlin, Germany

Berlin Cathedral, Berlin, Germany

Studying abroad during the summer is great because you earn academic credit outside of your normal schedule to graduate. Not all summer study abroad programs are ideal for first-time travelers, but these are and here’s why:

  • Short amount of time (typically 6-8 weeks)
  • No student visa (less paperwork)
  • Short list of classes (no searching)

International Summer School, Free University Berlin, Germany

The International Summer School at Free University Berlin, located in a quiet part of Berlin, is an easy 35-minutes to downtown. The program includes organized activities: a visit to the Reichstag building and federal parliament, a riverboat trip through downtown Berlin, and weekly German movies. As far as housing, you have your pick of a homestay, dorm, or apartment—all of which the program arranges before you land. You also have the option to learn German for beginners.


University of Sussex Summer Program, England

If you feel like meeting students from around the world in an English-speaking country, this is your program. A few perks include arranged dorm housing, weekend trips, and a program-guided tour of Brighton city. Within days of arrival, you’ll know where to bank, where to get coffee, and where to buy your crisps, melons, and laundry detergent.


Contemporary Argentina, Buenos Aires

Spend a whirlwind summer in Argentina where you’ll take a deep dive into Latin American history and culture. You’ll share meals and live with a local family. Tango lessons, museum trips, and a ranch experience of gaucho lifestyle make the summer go all too quickly. Spanish language study is available (but not required).


Maastricht Summer, Netherlands

An advisor abroad meets you at the airport when you choose the International Summer School in Maastricht, Netherlands. This program includes field trips and museum visits as well as a boat tour. A guided day trip to Amsterdam and Fourth of July barbecue round out your summer adventures. Add a trip to Germany or Belgium (or both) before you head home for the fall quarter.


Contemporary Spain, Madrid

Neatly situated between France and Morocco, Spain is an ideal launch point for extended summer travel. Designed and hosted by UC, the Language and Culture program helps you quickly achieve first-year Spanish language skills. Learn to enjoy a daily siesta because when the sun drops below the horizon, Madrileño nightlife begins!


Seoul Summer, Yonsei University, Korea

Spend four days a week in class (three-day weekends every week!) with international students from all over the world. Stay in the dorms on campus and enjoy cheap, fast transportation to all the sights. Devour all the kimchi, bibimbap, bulgogi, japchae, and other Korean favorites. Summer internships in corporate and research environments are a favorite feature of this program. Choose from a list of one-day field trips to make the most of your summer abroad in Korea at Yonsei University.



Go with a Guide

A teacher pointing to a monument in front of other students

To understand the history, language, and culture of any new place, it helps to have a guide. UC constructs these programs to help you live like a local in a new country. Each program features:

  • Lots of hands-on support
  • A short list of courses
  • Housing arranged for you
  • Low to no language requirements
  • Extra language preparation to help you succeed

All Roads Lead to Rome, Italy

Get ready for tons of photo opportunities, not just during free time, but in class. Professors on this program teach in the piazzas, churches, museums, and the streets of Rome. For instance, a series of guided walking tours take you through Rome’s hidden treasures with local experts. A starter language course introduces you to the practical Italian you’ll need in markets, shops, and cafés. Finally, day trips take you into historic vineyards, medieval towns, and the countryside.


Exploring Andalucia, Córdoba, Spain

The small, non-touristy town of Córdoba is easy to navigate on foot or by bus. Locals are friendly to visitors and happy to answer questions in Spanish or English. Recent returnees of this program rave about their host family housing. They also comment that the study center staff go above and beyond to create a warm community atmosphere.


Only in Paris, France

If you’ve ever wanted to understand this iconic French city, the Only in Paris program is for you. Eat cheese, crêpes, and croissants to your fill. Between program activities, there’s plenty of time to take boat rides along the Seine or watch pétanque tournaments. You can also explore beautiful and historical places outside the city on weekends.



Stay Close to California

Hiking girl reaching mountain top and sits to look at view

Alberta, Canada

Canada and Mexico are terrific choices for first-time travelers who want to study abroad and stay relatively close to home.

BONUS:  2018-19 programs in Canada and Mexico cost less than an equivalent term at a UC campus.

University of British Columbia, Canada

Enjoy an immersive study abroad experience in a country with a population that’s even more diverse than the US. Vancouver is a progressive city surrounded by mountains, beaches, and deep forests. Plus, the options for outdoor activities are endless. While many languages are spoken here, English and Chinese are the most common and foreign language skills are optional.


Contemporary Mexico, UC Center, Mexico

Spend a short summer in Mexico City where you’ll live with a local family in beautiful, colonial Coyoacán. Guest lectures, conversations, and discussions help you discover the people, politics, and culture of a country with deep ties to California. Explore ancestral sites with your classmates on organized trips every week.



Get Two Cities for One

Ancient Trajan Forum in Rome, Italy

Trajan Forum in Rome, Italy

These programs are ideal if you dream about a career abroad after graduating. You’ll spend time traveling, exploring, and learning about two distinctly different European cities. Each program features:

  • Language training
  • City-specific classes

Every detail of your trip is carefully outlined for you from housing to excursions, even the travel between locations. Join the local workforce by adding an internship for even more cultural immersion.

Global Cities Urban Realities, England and France

Study abroad cities: London and Paris

Learn how immigration, diversity, and urban planning have affected the social, political, and economic realities of people in two modern metropolises that have dominated the world stage for centuries. Guided tours with local faculty make the learning come alive. Start in London or Paris, and Europe’s famed high-speed passenger train will whisk you to the next city.


European Transformations, Spain and Italy

Study abroad cities: Madrid and Rome

Uncover the secrets of social revolutions, political plot twists, and family history in the legendary capitals of two global countries: Madrid, Spain and Rome, Italy. Guided tours with local faculty take you to special neighborhoods, hidden museums, and the sites where historical changes took place.


TIP: Some programs are open to sophomores, which means there’s plenty of time to go abroad again before graduation.

Consider yourselves warned first-timers. Travel is addicting and there is only one way to cure it: go abroad as much as you can!

A teacher pointing to a monument in front of other students
Berlin Cathedral with ship on Spree river at sunset, Berlin, Germany
A teacher pointing to a monument in front of other students
Hiking girl reaching mountain top and sits to look at view
Hiking girl reaching mountain top and sits to look at view
Ancient Trajan Forum in Rome, Italy
Female student waiting for plane in the airport
Female student waiting for plane in the airport
Berlin Cathedral with ship on Spree river at sunset, Berlin, Germany
Ancient Trajan Forum in Rome, Italy