Like many of my peers, I recently completed an application to study abroad through the University of California Education Abroad Program. As a religious studies major desiring to study in English, my choices were rather limited in terms of programs and countries in which to study. However, due to the ease of transferring units and proximity of the EAP office, I decided to apply to the EAP program in Cape Town, South Africa. After reviewing other options, I decided that South Africa offered classes that would transfer best toward my major and was the most intriguing location that EAP had to offer.
For those who do not know, the EAP application process is extensive. It includes, but is not limited to, a three-page statement of purpose, photocopies of passport documents, an unofficial transcript, an interview and a required meeting with academic advisors. In addition to the application, students must meet a GPA requirement – 3.0 in the case of South Africa – and have taken at least one African studies class prior to departure.
I was confident when I turned in my application well before the deadline knowing that I had met or exceeded all the requirements for the program. Like most EAP applicants, I had planned what classes I would need to take before and after my trip in order to stay on track with my major and minor. Considering the impacted housing situation in Isla Vista, I also planned my living situation for the following year accordingly. Not only had I signed a lease for next year, I had already lined up someone to sublet my room for the 2007 Fall Quarter. In other words, most applicants have to meticulously plan for much more than the following academic terms.
At no point during my entire application process was I told any information regarding my chances of being accepted or the number of spots that were available to applicants. I assumed that I had an excellent chance of getting approved, especially because I had never heard of anyone who was qualified being turned down from an EAP program. After nearly all the EAP application deadlines had passed, I heard from friends that some of their programs were particularly impacted and had less spots available for applicants.
About two weeks after turning in my application, I received an e-mail requesting a group interview and asking me to be prepared to discuss topics of South African culture, politics and history. In addition, the e-mail ambiguously asked for interviewees to be “flexible.” Being serious about the interview, I spent several hours researching and preparing topics for discussion. During the interview, eight other students and I were told that although there were 12 applicants for the Cape Town program, only one would be accepted. Each person was only given a few minutes to try to impress the EAP advisor with their knowledge and personal qualifications – far too little time to realistically get to know any of the applicants. We were given other EAP options in South Africa, but for many of us the alternatives did not offer classes toward our major.
This was a painful shock to me. I had done extensive planning and preparation for going abroad. The deadlines for other programs have now all passed and there are no other EAP programs available that work with my major. I am not alone in feeling cheated by not having been provided clear and essential information. It is upsetting that EAP expects students to plan and organize their academic careers so extensively, without providing such basic and necessary information. It is my hope that EAP improves its communication with students regarding the availability of their programs in the future and also makes an immediate effort to accommodate those who have had their plans and efforts all but wasted.