“I'd never traveled outside of the country, let alone traveling alone. I reminded myself that I was traveling for my parents who never had the means to. I knew they would want me to enjoy my time, learn, and explore as best I could.”
- Daisy, Summer in England
To all first-generation students, congratulations on all your achievements so far at the University of California, Berkeley! Whether or not you have already considered it, we want to encourage you to explore the many opportunities available to you through study abroad! We recognize that you may also be the first in your family to go abroad and while it may seem daunting, you’ve already successfully navigated Cal, and we are here to support you in this next part of your academic journey! Below you will find various resources curated just for you.
Why am I considering study abroad?
What do I hope to gain from studying abroad?
What is the best time for me to study abroad?
If no one in my family has studied abroad, who can I go to for insight on their study abroad experience?
Am I looking for an internship-based, research-based, or class-based experience abroad?
Do I want to go abroad for major/minor classes, breadths, or take classes unrelated to major/minor/breadths? What requirements, if any, am I looking to fulfill while abroad?
Who can I go to for questions about integrating study abroad into my curriculum?
Are there classes that are only offered at Cal during the fall or spring semester that I should plan around?
What career opportunities could studying abroad present to me?
Do I want to do an internship abroad?
Can I participate in job/internship recruiting opportunities at Cal while I am abroad?
How can I use my study abroad experience in the future?
What skills might I gain while studying abroad that can be useful in my future career?
Family and friends
Is it important to me to stay close to my family and friends? Would I be comfortable studying abroad far away from home?
If my family and friends are not familiar with study abroad, how will I explain it to them?
Will my family and friends be involved in my decision to study abroad? Will I rely on them for funding?
What resources will be available to my family and friends?
What can I do to stay connected to family and friends?
What expenses do I need to account for?
How do I plan to fund my time abroad?
Can financial aid help me cover study abroad expenses?
Are there any scholarships available for first-generation students?
Planning early is key! Planning includes thinking about your goals, deciding on the program, the application, and pre-departure steps. The sooner you start planning, the more flexibility and time you have to work out all the details, such as applying for scholarships, making arrangements with family, and sorting any other details to get yourself comfortable and confident with going abroad.
Trust that you have the skills and patience to plan for your time abroad, but also know that you are not alone! Our peer advisers are here to support at every step of the way, from the very first stages of navigating the website, to answering specific questions about the application. You can make an appointment with a peer adviser through the Berkeley Study Abroad Advising Guide.
Most program applications are due several months to a year in advance. Application deadlines are specific to each program, so please check your program on the Explore tool for the most accurate deadlines.
To see a detailed planning timeline, please read the study abroad timeline on the get started page.
Finances and budgeting are important aspects of study abroad. Managing finances is a skill that you have already—think about how you planned your finances to get to Berkeley, financially supporting yourself and/or family, taking a job, or saving up for a big purchase. Study abroad is yet another goal to save and strategize for, and you are not alone! Take advantage of financial aid and scholarships and think outside the box to fund your time abroad.
We want to acknowledge that many first generation students may currently be supporting their families, and that it may be difficult, both logistically and emotionally, to consider leaving the country while in that role. We encourage you to talk with your loved ones early on to make arrangements and to include them in that decision.
Lastly, it is important to note that work study and working while studying abroad in general is usually not allowed under the student visa you will likely be traveling with. It may be uncomfortable knowing that you won’t have the option to work while abroad, especially if that is the main way you have been supporting yourself and others. Don’t let this discourage you, however. There are many other ways that you can finance your time abroad and even support those back home without working. For starters, be sure to get a financial aid estimate and talk to a financial aid counselor—aid travels with you and might cover more than you think.
There are many resources for financing study abroad, and studying abroad can sometimes be comparable to spending a semester at Berkeley. Take a read of the information and pages linked below:
Financial aid is available for students going on UCEAP, Berkeley Global Internships, and Berkeley Summer Abroad programs. Financial aid eligible students are repackaged for financial aid based on the total budget of the program. Budgets are published on the program pages on the Berkeley Study Abroad or UCEAP websites. For guidance on how to understand program budgets, take a look at our Financing Study Abroad video.
As you are researching programs, look at the program budget breakdowns on the website. Once you know the term and program that you want to go abroad on, submit a financial aid package estimate form and reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with any specific questions.
You can find more details on our finances page.
After receiving your financial aid estimate, if you have remaining financial need or want to reduce your balance of loans, then consider applying to scholarships. Scholarships have varying deadlines and requirements, so be sure to do your research! Below are a few scholarships geared towards first-generation students:
- Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
- Fund for Education Abroad (FEA)
- Boren Awards for International Study
You can find more scholarships on our scholarships page.
Moving to another location, exploring the city, and traveling can get expensive—but it doesn’t have to be. Be empowered to take control of your budget, and take steps to spend comfortably and responsibility.
Berkeley Study Abroad offers peer advising with peers who are designated as EOP satellite advisers. Their names will have “EOP” marked next to them when you sign up for a peer advising appointment. Some of these students are EOP identifying, and all of them have additional knowledge on advising EOP identifying students. You can read more about EOP and EOP satellite advising on the EOP website.
All Berkeley Study Abroad peer advisers are equipped to answer your questions about getting started, picking a program, academic considerations, financial aid, and more. Feel free to read their bio’s on the sign up page and make an appointment with a peer who fits your scheduling and advising needs.
Our Student Stories page includes the experiences of first-generation students who have studied abroad. Feel free to read about their experiences abroad and the impacts it has had on their lives.
“As a first generation American, I already had some exposure to different cultures and knew I wanted to explore more in the context of my college experience. Studying abroad was part of my plan even while applying to colleges in high school. I chose Italy because of a childhood Italian friend who showed me the beauty in Italian culture, so I'd taken 3 semesters of Italian for fun, and was excited that I could finish Econ requirements abroad. Then, I chose Prague for global internships because I wanted to step further outside my comfort zone and continue the international exploration.”
Shayan: Economics and Psychology, Italy and Czech Republic
“As a first generation college student coming from a low income family I wasn't in the position to travel the world growing up. I knew that by participating in UC Berkeley Summer Study Abroad Program I would have the guidance from the office. As well as enough financial aid to support my journey abroad. I chose to study abroad in London because it was the central hub to nearby countries such as France and Ireland making weekend travel much easier.”
Daisy: Media Studies, United Kingdom - England
"I think the most meaningful aspect was just being able to complete this experience. I come from a low-income immigrant family and most of my childhood friends share similar identities. When I was posting pictures over the summer and talking to some of my friends and family about my experience, they made me feel like I was accomplishing a collective dream. Many expressed how happy they were for me and how they felt they were living these shared dreams of traveling through me. It gave me a great sense of pride and accomplishment to be one of the first within my social circle to explore Europe, a dream that seemed unattainable for most of us while growing up. It was an empowering experience that has filled me with gratitude."
Berkeley Study Abroad recognizes that as a first-generation student, it may be the first time you are traveling out of the state, country, or on your own. Hence, we have prepared a list of resources with a variety of tips for first time travelers!
Encourage your family to take a look at our I am a Family Member/Parent page for information about studying abroad and how to support your journey.
Make sure you arrange your passport/visa well in advance in order to avoid paying the expedited processing and mailing fees.
Pack light! Don’t over pack clothes or items that will not be essential. It can be stressful and expensive to pack more than you can carry. Only pack valuables if they are necessary for your trip. In addition, the “army rolling” technique can help you save space!
International flights are long and you won’t always have access to the best food options. Make sure to pack snacks and stay hydrated!
For your phone, compare the prices of getting an international data plan or unlocking your phone and buying a sim card when you land in the country.
Set travel notices on your bank cards so that they don’t flag your purchases abroad as suspicious activity, and do some research about banks that have ATM’s abroad to avoid high ATM fees.
If you want to exchange currency, the stalls at the airport usually have the highest fees. Consider exchanging some currency through your bank in the US so that you can land in the country with some cash, and then finding a currency exchange shop with lower rates during your first week in the country.
Set times to call with friends and family back home. Work around time differences and be intentional about when you connect!
Know that you may be spending more on meals and activities during your first week as you are adjusting and participating in orientation. You may not have as much time to grocery shop, or might find it more convenient to eat at restaurants during that time. This is totally normal, and soon enough, you will find a routine and your spending will stabilize.
It is normal to feel out of place or groggy while you are jetlagged. Once you settle in, you will be accustomed to the time zone difference!
Always keep an eye on your belongings to avoid being pickpocketed, especially in tourist areas. Sometimes, pickpocketers will distract you by starting a conversation or asking you to sign a petition while someone else takes your belongings from behind. Use your common sense and keep yourself safe!
Now that you've read about all our helpful resources, we would like to reassure you that you are ready to study abroad! With timely preparation and enthusiasm, we are confident that you will thrive during your time abroad!