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Prof. Randy Schekman meets 2016 UCEAP Guardian Scholar

UCEAP is excited to introduce the Guardian Scholar Fund, a program that supports former former foster youth who are pursuing their dreams of study abroad with UCEAP. The first recipient, Tiara Francisco, is a UCSB transfer student in psychology and is planning to pursue a master's degree in social work.  

Tiara is spending the year in Scotland, at the University of Edinburgh. On November 9, Tiara and other UC students had the opportunity to meet Nobel laureate and 2016 Linda Duttenhaver Distinguished Alumni Award recipient Prof. Randy Schekman (UK 1968-69) while he was at the University of Edinburgh receiving an honorary degree.

"[T]his experience is helping me set a great example for the children I hope to work with in my future career. I can show them they can take charge and accomplish their dreams, despite what they have been through in their lives. I would like to teach them that where you come from does not predict how far you can go.”  - Tiara Francisco, 2016 Guardian Scholars Fund recipient.  

Unlike most college students, Guardian Scholars do not have families on whom they can rely for simple things that other students take for granted, like a place to store their belongings while abroad.  

As an alumnus and friend of UCEAP, please consider supporting students like Tiara by donating to the Guardian Scholars Fund. Any gift will make a difference - your participation is what's important!  All gifts to the UC Regents are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.  Make your gift and support Tiara today!

In Memoriam: Carmen Tapia

UCEAP is sad to note the passing of our colleague, Carmen Tapia, on September 7, 2016 at the age of 91.

Carmen was a staff member at the Systemwide Office from 1989 – 2007, and held various roles in that time. In her writing and her work she focused on her passion for human rights and dignity for all people. Continue Reading.

Alumni Update: Paul Chitlik (Spain 1967-68)

UCEAP alumnus Paul Chitlik is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Screenwriting at Loyola Marymount University and has had a successful career as a screenwriter, producer and director for all the major networks and studios. This year, he has taken on a new role as faculty director, leading a group of nine LMU students on their own study abroad journey in Hungary. 

"My experience in Spain with UCEAP gave me lifelong tools for living, including the acquisition of another language which has helped me professionally and personally. I never thought I would have the chance to be a “Professor Blanco” (the director of the Madrid program when I was there), but it has been a great experience." Continue Reading.

Alumni Profile: Scott Reed, President and CEO of the Music Academy of the West

With 20 years of experience in the classical music industry, UCEAP alumnus Scott Reed has become a leader in arts education and administration. Scott has been the President and CEO of the Music Academy of the West, in Montecito, CA since 2010.

Scott attended UC Santa Barbara, where he majored in Vocal Performance. In 1996 he spent a semester abroad with UCEAP at the Université Lumière Lyon 2, studying French to improve his facility with the language when singing. He credits this term in France for directing his future career in arts administration and developing his passion for making performing arts accessible to everyone. Continue Reading

Italian Exchange Students Find Love

Join us in congratulating Mara Dambour and Francesco Gini on their wedding this summer! One of the many possible benefits of study abroad is meeting the love of your life!

In 2009, Francesco Gini, a student from Italy, came to UC Irvine on an exchange with UCEAP.  "Already having the opportunity to study in beautiful California would have been a dream for me. But when I arrived there, I met a wonderful and special girl, also from Italy on exchange with UCEAP.  It is with extreme happiness that I tell you that the girl I met while at UCI, thanks to you, is now my wife."  Congratulations Francesco Gini and Mara Dambour!

FORUM Award Recipients: Life Lessons

Three UCEAP alumni and former recipients of the National Undergraduate Research Award are profiled in a recent publication. Hear how their research abroad impacted their careers!

UCEAP Remembers

UCEAP remembers Professor Joonhong Ahn and Professor Mattison Mines. Both had a major impact on our students and programs

UCEAP announces the 2016 Distinguished Alumni Award Winners

Named after one of UCEAP's strongest alumni supporters, the Linda Duttenhaver Distinguished Alumni Award honors an alumna or alumnus who has a record of extraordinary service or achievement in his/her field and has made a significant impact on the global community.


(Pictured left to right: Susan Carlson, Vice Provost for Academic Personnel at UC Office of the President, Linda Duttenhaver, Randy Schekman, Vivian-Lee Nyitray, Alicia Sabuncuoglu)  

Nobel laureate Dr. Randy Schekman received this year’s Linda Duttenhaver Distinguished Alumni Award.  As an undergraduate at UCLA, Randy participated in the University of Edinburgh program in 1968-69. He credits his year in Edinburgh as a key event in the development of his career aspirations as an academic scholar and teacher. Dr. Schekman has been a professor of molecular and cell biology at Berkeley for 39 years and in 2013 received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.  

The 2016 UCEAP Emerging Leader Award winner is Alicia Sabuncuoglu.  Alicia oversees Strategic Partnerships at Google.  She participated in the Paris Center for Critical Studies program in 2005-06 and was a recipient of the UCEAP Dan Wise Scholarship. After returning to UCSD, Alicia gave back to the program by working with the campus office on student outreach and other activities. In her spare time, she has dedicated herself to the Google Art Project, a stunning global cultural experience online that brings the world's richest institutions and rarest collections into an open digital ecosystem. “My UCEAP experience abroad permeates nearly every facet of my life, and I would be proudly honored to express my thanks to the organization and help continue alumni efforts and the current program today.”

Randy and Alicia accepted their awards at the UCEAP Alumni Awards Dinner in June. Congratulations to our exceptional alumni! 

Read more about our Distinguished Alumni Awards

Harlan J. Strauss: From the Pentagon to Hollywood

Harlan Strauss was a member of the inagural group of 14 UC students that traveled to Lund University, Sweden in 1966. Harlan believes participation in UCEAP was fundamental to his personal and career development over the decades that followed. Following a Ph.D. at the University of Oregon in political science, Harlan worked for the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. as Research Director for the Republican Leadership, then Chief Speechwriter for the Republican Party.

After leaving government Harlan re-invented himself into a new career in acting, both in film and television.  He has appeared in roles in House of Cards, Saturday Night Live, and the Tonight Show, among others.  "I could not have done any of the above without the base that UCEAP provided me.  I have visited Sweden nearly every year since 1966.  EAP was and remains very important to me."

A Lasting Legacy - Remembering Dr. Peter A. Wollitzer

It has been almost 10 years since UCEAP lost good friend and cherished colleague Dr. Peter A. Wollitzer.  Peter was the first individual acknowledged by the UCEAP Memorial Scholarship Fund.  In recognition of the 10 year anniversary of his passing, UCEAP and Peter's widow, Alison, are honored to launch a new fundraising effort in his memory. 

To continue reading, click here

UCEAP Students meet Janet Napolitano

UC President Janet Napolitano and UCEAP Associate Vice-Provost and Executive Director Vivian-Lee Nyitray met with UCEAP students and staff in February over a traditional English Afternoon Tea. Students from many of UC’s English, Scottish and Irish partner universities participated to raise the awareness of UCEAP programs in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The quality of partnerships in both countries and the value and transformative impact of studying abroad were highlighted during the event. Following official presentations, tea was served and students spoke with President Napolitano and Associate Vice-Provost Nyitray about their experience and even took selfies! 

To read the rest of the story, click here

Melanie Woiwode Memorial Scholarship - Helping to promote immersion through sports!

The Melanie Woiwode Memorial Scholarship was established in June 2007 by friends of Melanie Woiwode and the University of California Trust UK. Melanie Woiwode was a vibrant, young Californian of grace, courage and passion, and the scholarship honors her memory as a dedicated sportswoman.

 The goal of the Melanie Woiwode Memorial Scholarship is to facilitate life-changing sporting experiences for women studying in the UK or Ireland. Woiwode Scholars receive small grants to offset costs associated with undertaking a sporting activity during their year abroad. These funds are used by UCEAP students to help purchase items such as team uniforms or a bus pass for transportation to and from a practice field, costs that sometime prohibit students from participating in important immersion activities. For the past nine years, the fund has supported over 50 students in diverse extra-curricular activities, including rugby, badminton, and spelunking. Recent recipient Grace Yu used the Melanie Woiwode Memorial Scholarship to help fund her participation in the University College Dublin’s Trampoline Club! Click here to watch a video of Grace’s trampoline experience. If you are interested in supporting the Melanie Woiwode Memorial Scholarship, please donate today or contact Elizabeth Janis Perl at eperl@eap.ucop.edu. We depend on the generous support of our alumni and friends like you. Even a small donation of $10 will help keep this important scholarship program in support of our female students in the UK successful.

Professional Violin Maker James Wimmer

As a junior at UCSB in 1969, James Wimmer spent a year in Germany, at Georg-August University of Göttingen, where he developed fluency in the German language.  After graduation, his language skills assisted him when he spent several years as a professional musician in Europe, and four more years learning the art of violin making from master violin makers Wolfgang Uebel and Herbert Rainer Knobel.

Jim met his wife Peggy White, also from UCSB, while they were both studying abroad at Göttingen.  Peggy and Jim lived in Germany from 1971 to 1986 where Peggy received a German teaching degree and worked in various capacities at Georg-August.  Upon returning to California, Peggy worked for UCEAP for 16 years as our Academic Development Analyst, helping to get many of our current study abroad programs created and approved.  Jim has worked as a professional violin maker since 1980 and opened his studio in Santa Barbara in 1986.  He brings old world tradition of classical violin construction to bear in his concert quality instruments. 

In spring 2007, Westmont College in Montecito, California, commissioned Jim for the construction of the Hubert Schwyzer quartet.  The quartet consists of a cello, viola, and two violins, all patterned after Antonius Stradivarius. Jim flew back to Germany to hand carry back the wood needed for this very special project of matching instruments.

Jim recently returned from his second 3-week trip to Chennai, India to lead a Violin Wise program, teaching repair and restoration of the violin family instruments.  He has written extensively about his work and experiences there with his Indian students in a series of fascinating and humorous blog posts and photographs on the Violin Wise website.  You can read more about Jim’s interesting work as a luthier here.

Alumni Profile: Thomas Seale, University of St. Andrews, 1977-78

We were thrilled to have UCEAP alumnus Thomas Seale and his lovely wife Sophie, a French exchange student he met while at St. Andrews, join us at the recent 50th anniversary celebrations in Edinburgh. Thomas considers himself to be the quintessential UCEAP alumnus.  

“I guess I should be a Poster Boy for the UC Education Abroad Program: During my year at St. Andrews, I met many of my closest friends; I’ve been an expat for 30 years; travelled the world; done business on 5 continents; my three children were each born in a different European country and each speak three languages; I have taken on a second citizenship; and our friends and family are scattered across the globe.” Thomas is currently the CEO of the European Fund Administration in Luxembourg. 

Before EFA, Thomas was Managing Director and Country Corporate Officer for Citibank Luxembourg, led Product Marketing for The Citibank Private Bank in Switzerland, and worked as a Management Consultant for the Mac Group in Paris and Los Angeles.  During his speech, Thomas shared three life lessons for the roomful of student who had recently arrived in Scotland & Ireland:  listen and learn; don’t predict the future but learn to adapt; and follow your passion.  Thomas received his BA in Economics from UC Santa Cruz and holds an MA in Economics and an MBA from UCLA. In 2010, with his wife and three children, Thomas founded a family olive oil business on their farm in Provence.  Les Templiers de Provence, which produces Extra Virgin Olive Oil, won the Gold Medal in the Marseille olive oil competition in 2015! To read Thomas’s speech, click here.

Kamaal Thomas: A Recent Returnee Reflects on his time in Hong Kong

In 2014, I decided to spend my junior year in college participating in the UCEAP exchange program attending the University of Hong Kong (HKU). Words cannot explain the magnitude this experience has had on my life.

This was my first time outside of the United States. It was a bold endeavor, but I was fervently committed to overcoming my fears in efforts to diversify my education in International Relations, develop a social and cultural understanding of East Asia, and immerse myself in a new environment.

 Throughout my stay, I was faced with numerous language and cultural barriers that while overwhelming at times, has substantially contributed to my academic and personal self-growth as an aspiring global leader. In the short time I was in Hong Kong, from participating in the Umbrella Revolution to playing on the HKU Varsity Basketball Team, each experience has given me a greater understanding of the essence of life.

Early into my trip, civil unrest broke out. In mid-September, college students across Hong Kong prepared for a weeklong student strike in protest against the National People's Congress Standing Committee. These students believed that Hong Kong's Chief Executive should be elected through universal suffrage, which the Committee wanted to disallow. With Hong Kong citizens distraught by China's interference with Hong Kong's democratic government, thousands of students gathered for the strike in peaceful protest. Although I initially attended the Oath to Peace ceremony out of curiosity, the Student Union Vice-President reminded me that even in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, non-Blacks joined in solidarity to fight for the rights of African Americans. Thus, even as a foreigner in Hong Kong, I had a stake in the outcome of these protests. As the strike began, I decided to participate. While initially it seemed disingenuous to support a cause that did not impact my social or political well being, I still felt the moral obligation to protest in solidarity with the Hong Kong students who sacrificed so much for the right of universal suffrage.

Throughout a continuing 80-day protest, I witnessed the kindness of those who provided me with sheets, water, and plastic rain jackets; bonded with the elderly sharing stories of how life has drastically changed over Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's 17-year existence; and empathized with those young and old who were tear gassed and beaten.  The Umbrella Revolution has embodied the essence of civil disobedience and taught me the meaning of collective action, and fighting for the right to self-determination.

My experience inside and outside the classroom provided insight on a variety of issues including China-Hong Kong affairs, Chinese foreign policy and the process of cultural immersion. The experience that impacted me the most was playing for HKU's Men's Basketball Team. Playing on the team was a challenge that often left me ostracized. From being the only one unable to communicate on a completely Cantonese-speaking team, to feeling alienated because of my ethnic dissimilarities–not to mention the prevalent cultural differences that led me to be misperceived as entitled and undisciplined–were all obstacles I encountered on a daily basis. However, with my competitive spirit, I knew that to have any chance of winning a championship, I would have to work past my differences and assimilate to my new environment.

Throughout the season, I gradually assimilated and began to change from a dominant player who could will a team to victory, to a modest component of a unit—a part of a network of plays, forms, and synergy. I embraced the language while accepting the cultural norm of deference to authority (giving me insight into the precepts of filial piety in the process). I found ways to use my basketball IQ to help develop my teammates' personal skills while they taught me the advantages of collectivism, volunteerism, and being a part of a community.
We had a phenomenal season playing throughout Asia, breaking numerous records and making it to the championship. While we came up short in the final game, we were able to merge two distinct cultures, contrasting ideologies, and unique styles of play that were greater than the sum of its parts. That experience–even in the absence of achieving victory–allowed me to develop my character, become a member of a family, and build amity in the process, which is much greater than what any banner or shiny medal could ever afford.
My time studying abroad in Hong Kong and my firsthand experience participating in the Umbrella Revolution will be invaluable in dismantling misperceptions of Asian culture. Additionally, I will now be an advocate who explicates the value of diversity and living in a globalized, multicultural world. My experience has reinforced my commitment to building transnational amity. Just as much of the difficulties I faced were due to lack of understanding, empathy and consideration, I believe that the biggest contributor to international conflicts derives from the same place.

UCEAP gave me the opportunity to expand my horizons, travel outside the U.S. for the first time, create life-long friendships around the globe and gave me the chance to participate in a social movement that will one day be in history books. This possibility would not have existed without my family, friends, mentors, and UCEAP staff. I am truly humbled and tremendously grateful for this gift and the continual benevolence. Your efforts will one day make me the catalyst to systemic social change at the global-level.

A UCSC alumna remembers: Leningrad, Winter '79

To begin:  it was seriously, remarkably, unsustainably, COLD.  It didn’t help that the Russians themselves told me it was one of the coldest winters since Napoleon’s armies were frozen outside of Moscow, that they said it was perhaps the coldest winter since the 900 day siege of Leningrad during World War II.  It was so cold that I thought I might not last.  So cold I was scared to go out, my tears froze in my eyes.

The winter of 1979, I came from the dappled, sunlit redwood groves of UC Santa Cruz, with its small but mighty Russian department, to dagger -like icicles on my dorm windowpanes, to deep, treacherous snow piles along the embankments, (Leningrad is built on canals, “The Venice of the North”), and sputtering, spouting, radiators overheating the barracks-like dormitory.   I felt like Alice gone through the Looking Glass. NOTHING WAS FAMILIAR and, O Lord, Was It Cold!

That fall I’d survived a terrible car wreck in the hills above San Jose (where there were still apricot orchards, not a silicon chip to be seen), and I came to Leningrad limping, on crutches, terrified of falling and re-breaking my leg on the black ice in this dark winter gloom city.
 Luckily, my fellow EAP students took care of me, and, though we had to cross three stone bridges to get from DORMITORY # 9, to the FILOLOGICHESKII FAKULTET (language department of Leningrad State University),  I never had to make that walk alone.  Cold War Time; Leonid Brezhnev was still the Premier and Chair of the KPCC (Komunisticheskkii Partii  Sovietskii Soyuz).  We were told at an orientation in Paris, (run by the Council on International Educational Exchange), that our Leningrad dormmates would probably be informers, and we should be circumspect and discreet and not discuss friends we made outside. 

We were told that, even when we thought not one more person could fit on the trolley or the “tramvai", many more would crowd on, and to get over our Western sense of “personal space”. We were told: the water was fine to drink but there would be no oranges.  And that tea was always over sugared, and the coffee was terrible.  And it was all true.  

What we were not told: how completely magical Leningrad was: enchanted like a Grimm’s fairytale, with turquoise and cream palaces, (The Marinsky Theatre), shimmering fountains and bronze horsemen,  broad canals like spilled ribbons of  milk, iron wrought bridges,  huge yet delicate,  that raised up after midnight to allow big ships to pass through.  We were not told was that it was a city of extraordinary artists and musicians performing plays  in underground theatres  conservatory trained musicians playing rock and roll in secret house concerts, poets singing verses in attics, and cellists rehearsing in  night watchmen huts.  The winter of 1979, an American in Leningrad was a rare bird. My underground friends christened me “the extraterrestrial,” and warned me not to talk about them in the dorm, “they have taught us to be afraid, “ my cellist told me, “and they have taught us well.”  My dorm roommates, all members of the Communist Youth League, were friendly and ambitious. They threw me a surprise birthday party.  They brought us gringo students delicacies when they stumbled upon  them for sale in street kiosks (poppy seed buns, creamy chocolates called Birds Milk), they helped us with our pronunciation, they were good comrades.  But they kept us at a distance.

The friends I made outside of the Leningrad dorm have informed the rest of my life, and have been my friends for almost 40 years.  Since 1979, I have earned my living with the Russian language: as an interpreter, tour escort, and journalist in the 80’s, (there), then as a social worker with immigrants in the 90’s, (here).  I still speak and sing Russian, and I just wrote and performed a one-woman show here in San Francisco based on my youth there. Its titled, simply, LENINGRAD. - Naomi Marcus

UCEAP China Alumni Gives Back to Host Country

During my study abroad in Beijing, I stayed with a host family. For five months I tutored the host family's child in exchange for free housing and home-cooked meals. I immersed myself into the local culture and experienced for the first time in my life what it was like to live and grow up in a Chinese household in China.

Through this experience I connected with a family that did whatever it took to get their child into the best schools. The father worked remotely for his consulting job for weeks at a time before coming home, while the mother worked the usual 9-to-5 at a job that became a lifeless chore. One thing I couldn't help but notice was the level of miscommunication, stress, anxiety, concern, and lack of self expression in the household.

This experience opened my eyes to the lifestyles and perspectives of students and families in China. Many students quit school early to work for money and are so focused on the traditional path to success that oftentimes they may overlook the bigger picture. I founded the Global Leadership Camp to address this issue and to provide a platform to empower students to think big - www.globalleadershipcamp.com.

As a final note- I challenge each of you to make a difference with the countries you've studied abroad at. Together, we are the next generation of leaders who will bridge the gap between the countries of the world. - Maxine Lau

Spain Alumni create Scholarship Fund

Twelve members of the 2004-05 UCEAP Spain program came together in 2014 to collectively raise $2,000 and support a scholarship for a current student studying in Spain.  With individual gifts ranging from $50 to $500, this group of friends has shown that there is strength in numbers.  They plan to celebrate the tenth anniversary of their year in Spain by raising $4,000 to fund two scholarships for students in 2015.

Several members of the same class had a chance to share stories of their time in Spain over dinner during a mini-reunion in late February 2015 in San Francisco.  Each person had a personal anecdote about how studying in Spain for the year directly impacted their career or changed the trajectory of another part of their life.  Developing strong language skills during an extended period in Madrid or Barcelona was particularly useful for several alumni, and even opened up doors for career advancement when, as Craig Sharp mentioned, he “wasn’t even looking.”

Chris Wong uses his language skills on a regular basis in his role as an Assistant Brand Manager for Latin America’s largest wine producer.  Shortly after starting his current job he was entrusted by management to present, in Spanish, a Northern California vineyard to a group of 200 Latin American distributors in Santiago, Chile.  He has also volunteered as a Spanish-English interpreter for the San Francisco Education Fund, helping to open channels of communication between Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents and school staff.

Jessica Price Petrilli used her experience abroad in Spain to help her during the competitive recruitment process of Teach For America. In her application and interview she shared about being a member of Spain’s collegiate national women’s rugby team. She is now a middle school principal serving a high need and predominantly Latino population in Oakland. She is the first non-Latino principal at the school, and her language skills allow her to communicate effectively with families of students and members of her school community.

Spain 2004-05 students in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid

UCEAP is grateful to the members of the 2004-05 Spain group who shared their stories with us and to those who donated to the Spain Alumni Scholarship Fund. If you and your EAP friends are interested in setting up a group scholarship fund for your classmates to support then please contact Elizabeth Janis Perl, Alumni Engagement and Development Director at eperl@eap.ucop.edu or by phone at 805-893-4233.  For more information about supporting current UCEAP student scholarships, go to https://alumni.eap.ucop.edu/give.

Robert McCann: Finding Home

Professor Robert McCann, Associate Dean of Global Initiatives and faculty member in the Management and Organizations’ area at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, is no stranger to studying abroad.  

Robert McCann, Summer '90 & '91

Bob McCann Thailand 1990

He ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain as a part of a high school summer program, spent his entire junior year studying (and eating lots of tapas) in Madrid, and experienced an intellectually stimulating summer at Oxford University in England, also as an undergrad. 

However, Dr. McCann’s most life-changing trips were two successive UCEAP study abroad program trips that he took to Chiang Mai, Thailand when studying for his Master’s degree at UCLAJust after graduating from with a BA in International Studies from Emory University in Atlanta, McCann spent five years working in international banking, during which he spent a year in Karachi, Pakistan. This was the period just before Benazir Bhutto became Prime Minister of Pakistan, and there was unrest in the country. To take a break from the rising tension, McCann traveled as a tourist to nearby Thailand. He enjoyed the trip so much, it convinced him to study abroad in Thailand with the UCEAP program as a UCLA graduate student. “I didn’t know very much about Thailand before my first trip there. I had studied Thai language and culture at the Thai temple in North Hollywood and had read Carol Hollinger’s novel Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind, but back then there really wasn’t too much information on Thailand,” he said.

However when he arrived at Chiang Mai University (CMU) in northern Thailand, he learned Thai very quickly. McCann lived with a host family—a Chiang Mai University professor and his wife, their two young sons, nicknamed Pepsi and Cola, and the family dog named Sing. The family’s home was located close to the Chiang Mai Zoo, so McCann fondly remembers drifting off to sleep each night to the sound of cicadas chirping and elephants trumpeting outside of his window.  In Thailand, it is tradition for parents to give their children nicknames at birth, often inspired from Thai adjectives based on physical features or personality traits of the child, or random English words such as ‘Apple’ or ‘Mint,’ hence the nicknames of the CMU host family professor’s two sons. Pepsi and Cola.

“One of the most influential people I met in Thailand was my professor Yawalak Na Chiang Mai. She taught us the Thai language for six hours daily and managed to keep us focused and motivated. She was a brilliant teacher of the Thai language.  However, her choice of nicknames was a bit odd. On the first day of class she was giving all of the Americans Thai nicknames, and so I figured she would call me ‘Bobby’ or something similar. However, she saw my name (Bob) started with a B and gave me the name ‘Bin’ which she used as short for ‘Binthabat.’ Binthabat means alms-giving. Unfortunately, Thais sometimes interchange ‘l’ and ‘n’ sounds at the end of words, so people always assumed my real name was Bill. I therefore changed my Thai nickname to ‘Ton,’ which means tree trunk,” said McCann.  “I still am not exactly sure why I chose “Ton,” but at least no one was calling me Bill anymore” McCann added with a laugh.

Thailand is a land of traditions and community, and one of Chiang Mai University’s most cherished traditions is the trek up Doi Suthep, a mountain that rises above the school. All of the university’s “freshies” (the fond nickname for 1st year students) compete to race up the nine miles to the temple at the top of the mountain to welcome in the new school year.

Unlike American universities, Thai universities are very group-oriented: life is all about the community."  After class, everyone would go down to the canteen for lunch, and each major had their own table. As a foreigner I was able to sit at any table, but for Thai students this was not the case. The group mentality was present everywhere; I asked a girl on a date and she brought along seven friends as chaperones! Everyone is very supportive and there is a real sense of community,” said McCann. Though Professor McCann studied along with other American UC students, he really felt part of the culture when he got into phleng phuea chiwit, a genre of Thai folk music strongly influenced by elements of Western folk and rock music.

“My advice for students going on any long term study abroad program is to find some time to break away from the class group and explore either on your own or with a good friend. Absorb the music, food, arts and sports, and immerse yourself into the aspects of the culture that resonate with you.  For me, it was music.  There is a lot of great music in Thailand, and I met a lot of people because of music. I studied Thai song lyrics, and was the on and off singer of a Thai band (McCann sang in Thai).  A few years later, a friend of mine from the band and I opened up a night club for Thai university students in North Bangkok and did really well,” said McCann.

Though he threw himself headfirst into the culture of Thailand, the 1990s was a period in which American culture began to pervade the region. “When I was living with my Thai family, I had an old 1970s built motor scooter that I loved. One day I was driving along and noticed a long line of people: a new shop had opened. It was the first 7/11 in Chiang Mai, and the shelves were filled pretty much with canned goods except for one Big Gulp machine. I was the only foreigner in the store at the time, so I had a lot of fun teaching the Thai people in the store how to operate the (then) mysterious machine. Nowadays this has totally changed; there is a 7/11 on virtually every street corner,” said McCann.

Professor McCann studied at the “classically Northern Thai” Chiang Mai University, but the current UCEAP programs take place at the fast-paced, urban Thammasat University in Bangkok. Though the city is fairly westernized, there are still many Thai traditions and holidays that occur throughout the year. Every year in April, Thailand celebrates the New Year with Songkran, a four-day festival in which people run around the city with buckets, hoses, and water guns attempting to completely douse everyone they see in water to wash away the past year and bring good luck for the new. “I’ll never forget the one year when I walked in a Songkran parade in Chiang Mai with a group of local musicians who were playing traditional folk instruments.  I was playing the cymbal, presumably the instrument which involved the lowest learning curve, and was dressed in traditional Northern Thailand dark blue clothing.  As the parade moved along, an elderly Thai woman approached me and gently put white powder on my face and sprinkled my shoulder with water. This was the traditional way of celebrating the Songkran festival,” said McCann.

After finishing his UCEAP trip and earning his Ph.D. at UCSB, Professor McCann spent several years teaching at a Thai university, as well as working in private industry in Bangkok.  Before returning to the USA, McCann was the Senior Brand Ambassador for the Asia region for the Johnnie Walker line of whisky products.  McCann also met and married his wife during this time in Thailand, and his ½ Thai, ½ American (luuk krung in Thai) daughter was born in Bangkok. 

The UCEAP program is meant to allow students to learn about other countries, but oftentimes in the process they learn more about themselves. “I learned that I am most at home when in another country, and that I am most comfortable in a culture other than my birth culture. I would advise students that if given the choice between a 10-week stay and a 20-week stay, if possible I would go for the longer stay because it can take a while to really understand the flow and ways of life of a new culture.  Before departing, try to meet as many people as you can who have connections to the country.  Any kind of pre-trip language training you can do is helpful - the more things you do to prepare, the better.  And once you arrive at your destination, immerse yourself into the local culture as much as you can.  Live every moment to the fullest.  Studying abroad is a very special time in a person’s life. My six study abroad trips during high school and college have changed me forever, and I have no doubt that study abroad can be equally impactful to students who are heading overseas now.”

Some people study abroad to learn about others, and others study abroad to learn about themselves. For Professor McCann, two UCEAP study abroad trips to Thailand led to 17 years of life in Southeast Asia, allowed him to meet his wife and start a family with her, and taught him that he is most at home when he is thousands of miles away from it.

UCLA Anderson Schoolof Management
Associate Dean of Global Initiatives
Robert M. (Bob) McCann, Ph.D.

Prof Robert McCann UCLA

Friends celebrate 50th Anniversary of Study Abroad in Spain

Janet Yoshida Kessler and Theresa Elva Jordan Mathiesen met as students
 in Madrid and have stayed in touch these past 50 years.

UCEAP celebrated the 50th Anniversary of study abroad in Spain with an event at UC Irvine. Over 125 UCEAP alumni and friends, including Janet and Elva were there to join in the festivities, featuring traditional Spanish cured sausages, chorizos and ham, and Spanish classical guitar music. Ten alumni from our original 1964-65 class
were with us to commemorate this wonderful milestone. To read more about their memories from Spain in 1964, click on the links above.



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