UCEAP Alumni and Friends


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college students in Bordeaux in the 60s

Alumni Profiles

All UCEAP alumni agree that studying abroad is a transformative experience. UCEAP alumni are leaders in the fields of language and culture, international education, politics and more.  Read interviews with alumni and learn about their lives before, during and after UCEAP.

Alumni Profiles
UC Alumni Celebrate 50 Years of Exchange with Sweden

Last month UCEAP traveled to Sweden to celebrate our 50 year anniversary of student exchange with Lund University. Alumni, faculty, staff, and friends joined us for three days of events in commemoration of our historic partnership. Check out our photo album here.

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Alumni Update: Kathleen Adams, France 1977-78

An alumna of the UCEAP program at the University of Poitiers, Dr. Kathleen Adams credits her year abroad with inspiring her to become a cultural anthropologist. Now a professor at Loyola University Chicago, Dr. Adams shares her continued passion for international education in her alumni story.

How did study abroad affect your life choices?

My year in France had a deep impact on me. It greatly enhanced my self-confidence and gave me a thirst for the excitement and growth that happens when living in a foreign (or semi-foreign) culture. Having a French mother also meant that the year enabled me to get in touch with a part of my heritage that I did not fully appreciate prior to my time in France. 

Tell us the highlights of your professional career. What are your proudest achievements?

I have had the pleasure of teaching American students studying abroad in Rome, Italy, for the 2008-09 academic year, and have taught on the University of Virginia's Semester at Sea program numerous times. I have also been fortunate to have spent time as a visiting professor at Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines and at Al-Farebi Kazakh National University in Kazakhstan. All of these experiences can be traced back to the seeds that were planted during the year I participated in the University of California Education Abroad Program in France.

If you were to give advice to current UCEAP students, what would you say?

Select a café or bakery and frequent it daily, becoming a part of the rhythm of community life. You never know what delightful surprises this approach will yield. For me, daily purchases at the corner bakery resulted in a friendship with the proprietors, an older couple, who invited me to their home and even offered me a bakery apprenticeship, giving me a different, non-student perspective on life in a smaller French city. Stretch yourself and take classes you would not normally take. The French friends I met in classes I would not normally take became lifelong friends.  Our children have spent happy time together singing Breton songs and riding ponies at one friend's organic farm in Brittany...something I never could have imagined all those years ago.

Do you have a wonderful memory from your time abroad with UCEAP? We would love to hear from you. Fill out our Alumni Questionnaire to share your story and win a UCEAP t-shirt.



UCSB Student Wins Riding Competition in Bordeaux

UCEAP student Leesan Kwok, who is studying in Bordeaux for the year, won the level 3 division of the hunter category at the Championnat Régionale of Gironde, a major horse show, on March 5, 2017.  

Competitors are judged on horse and rider presentation, showmanship, horsemanship, and position. Leesan, who has been riding for 15 years, found a barn near her home in Bordeaux that enabled her to continue riding much more affordably than in the U.S. Leesan said, “I’ve been learning most of my French lingo and vocab from hanging around the barn. Although I’m still not fluent, I have noticeably improved my understanding of the language through consistent exposure. Now I can take a full riding lesson of 1.5 hours in French!”  Congratulations,  Leesan!

Mama LaSharon Dinners Bridging Cultures In Siena, Italy

As the Assistant Director of Education Abroad at UC Riverside, I am provided with ample time to reminisce about my experiences on UCEAP. 







This year is more special, as it marks 15 years since my participation on the Siena, Italy Language and Culture program during the summer and fall of 2002. As I recall my memories, “Mama LaSharon Dinners” are the fondest of them all. If you were on the program during this time, I can almost guarantee that you've tried my cooking. So now you're probably thinking, "What's so special about a ‘Mama LaSharon Dinner’"? Well, let me tell you what makes them so special.

Within the first few weeks of my program, the students started calling me “Mama LaSharon". The reason? I happened to be the oldest student on the program. I had my 8-year-old son, who I had left back in the United States with my parents, and I provided some voice of reason and wisdom. The “Mama LaSharon” nomenclature eventually became the name that locals called me, but this was just a genesis story of the name and not the dinners.

At home, I served as the family cook. When you’re the oldest of six and a "key latch kid,” you become resourceful or you starve waiting for your parents to get home. Cooking in Italy was the way for me to save on meals and allowed me to afford extra trips in and outside the country. It was never a big deal until the day the aroma of fried chicken oozed out my apartment. It was the beginning of students gathering at my door, questioning where in the city did I get whatever meal I was eating, regardless if it was a Mexican, Filipino, Chinese, etc... It was an interesting observation to see that students did not realize just because you left home you didn't leave your skills at home.

It's no secret that students abroad fill their evening exploring the city, aka partying in the city. Of course as the responsible student that I am, I happened to be home asleep because of an exam the next day. With several fervent knocks at the door, I was awakened by a group of students. "Mama, we’re hungry. Do you have anything to eat?,” asked one of the students. The tired side of me wanted to slam the door and go back to bed, but my mom instinct had a soft heart and whipped up a quick meal. The next night there was another knock at the door. This was a different group of students, but they had the same question. Again, I provided the group with a meal. This late night feeding frenzy went on for five nights. I had to find a solution because I needed my beauty rest and I had to find a way to save on food supplies, since feeding these groups was depleting my supplies.

The next week I had the students spread the word that I would cook one meal for the week. At the beginning of the week, the students were given a choice of two options, the most popular option would be the dish I would prepare. $3 was the going price for a meal. I collected the money from each student and headed off to the "7 Eleven". The local shop situated in the center of Via Pantaneto was called the “7 Eleven” by the American students because it was the only shop that remained open the longest and on weekends. I believe the shop owner was smart with his approach because the area was predominately American students. However, I think I gave the owner a near heart attack as he watched me load package after package into my bags. I cleaned out the "7 Eleven's" meat supply. If you know anything about Italian culture, you know that people tend to shop for the day and not for the month. He never said a word although he had a look of terror on his face. The next visit was to see the Fruttaiolo to get fresh veggies for a salad. I did not alarm him like I did the shop owner even if it seemed like a lot of vegetables. Within 3 hours, I had prepared a well-balanced meal ready to serve the students.

This routine continued for two more weeks before the shop owner inquired about what I was doing with all the food. I’m sure it appeared strange that for three weeks I cleaned him out of his meat supply. I’m sure he wondered how could one person eat so much meat. I explained to him what I was doing and he gave a sigh of relief. The following week when I returned he handed me a store catalog. “You choose the items you need,” he said to me. Jackpot!!! He had so many more items available for me to order from that I could get creative with dishes. In addition, I pointed out items that the American students would buy that he did not stock. When you know only a fraction of what your clientele needs you’re missing a whole lot of about what they want and what they are willing to buy. From then the store was stocked with Pringles, tortillas, BBQ sauce, etc… This was the beginning of me leaving my mark on this little town in Italy.

It didn’t take long for the word regarding “Mama LaSharon Dinners” to spread amongst the locals that they started joining us for dinner. This lead to a major cook off event. Of course I won but no one was really keeping score cause we were having too much fun. Each week, I would bring the shop owner a plate of whatever I was making which caught the attention of the owners of the Internet Train, cleaners, and the Bella Vista Social Pub. Within a few weeks, I went from not just having “Mama LaSharon Dinners” to “Mama LaSharon Happy Hours” at the Bella Vista Social Pub. They had a local artist create posters featuring a caricature drawing of me promoting their happy hour specials. One night a week locals and American students could enjoy American style appetizers and drink specials. But my culinary skills didn’t just stop there.     

Fast forward to November, when it’s the time of year when family and friends join together for Thanksgiving. If you know the Perez family, you know Thanksgiving is a little non-traditional as we enjoy Chinese food that day. However, we always have pumpkin pie on hand. So where am I supposed to get pumpkin pie in the middle of Italy? Oh that’s right...I have to make it. Thank goodness for the internet to help with conversion of measurements and recipes. If you thought I sent students and locals into a frenzy over my cooking, you could almost imagine what happened when pumpkin pie showed up. Now I will admit to a foreigner pumpkin pie is not the most appealing looking dessert. So I had to coax a few people to give it a try but once I did it was shock and pleasure. As the word started to spread to the administrative staff of the Siena program, I soon found myself preparing over twenty pies for the program’s Thanksgiving dinner. Not only did I prepare pies, but also taught the chefs to prepare stuffing for our meal.

There is the saying, “The way to a man's heart is through his stomach". I used my cooking skills to bridge two cultures together capturing the hearts of the locals and the students. I was even offered my own restaurant that would have been funded by three of the local business owners. Of course, I turned them down since I had to return home to finish my degree and raise my son. From time to time…I think about what could have been. Would there be a Mama LaSharon Ristorante in the heart of Siena today? I guess we’ll never know. What I do know is cooking was my gateway in bridging American and Italian culture that provided me with an enriching experience on the Siena program. 


News & Events

Read the latest UCEAP news and learn about upcoming events happening near you!

Alumni News
Peace Corps Mentor Program

Did you join the Peace Corps after college? We want to hear from you. UCEAP is looking for alumni who are willing to be a mentor to UC students interested in the Peace Corps. Send an email to alumni@eap.ucop.edu today!

UCSB student playing on the Women's British Basketball League

Sierra Schwellenbachm, a junior from UC Santa Barbara studying Computer Science, grew up playing basketball, and dreamed to one day play professionally.


Her dream has now come true in England! Sierra is spending the academic year at the University of Manchester. She joined the University’s basketball team shortly after arriving in the UK. She has since been recruited to play for the Manchester Mystics, a team in the Women’s British Basketball League. The Mystics’ games have been featured on BBC Sport, and the team won the WBBL Cup earlier this year! Sierra says, “I am so grateful for this experience. It has changed how I view the world and made me a more confident, aware person.” Congratulations to Sierra and her teammates on their victory!

UK Alumni Mentorship Program

While studying abroad in London with UCEAP, UC students have the unique opportunity to be mentored by one of the accomplished members of the expansive UC Alumni UK network.


Each mentorship pair is matched based on shared academic backgrounds and professional interests, and students have the opportunity to make international connections and ask questions about everything from living abroad to formatting resumés.This fall, UCLA alumna Celina Gorre mentored fellow Bruin and UCEAP participant Victoria Li, and the two bonded over their mutual passion for public health. Victoria shared that her participation in the UK Alumni Mentorship Program was one of the highlights of her semester abroad at King’s College London, explaining that “through this experience, I have found inspiration to pursue my goals in the healthcare industry. Not only were we able to discuss some questions I had regarding her work, but also talk about my path and my next steps as someone interested in medicine.”You can learn more about the UK Alumni Mentorship Program and read student reflections on the program on the UCEAP UK & Ireland blog

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