By Rena Yokoue

About a week before the fall quarter started, I needed to print a document for my home university. As an international exchange student from Japan, it was hard to take in the enormous resources at UCSB. And I was relieved to get to the right building finally, after almost getting lost.

But the building was locked unexpectedly, so I stayed there for about 10 minutes before a man yelled at me to be come back once school started, and then slammed the door in my face. I felt lonely and intimidated, because I was new in the United States and was trying to find my way.

Then I passed by South Hall’s  UCSB Education Abroad Program (EAP) office and made up my mind to stop by for the first time. It is just one of several offices available to foreign students to help navigate their unfamiliar surrounding and discover resources at UCSB. In addition to helping foreign students here, the EAP also offers more than 400 programs in 44 countries to domestic students who are thinking of studying abroad.

  The Education Abroad Program (EAP) office at 2431 South Hall, UC Santa Barbara

The Education Abroad Program (EAP) office at 2431 South Hall, UC Santa Barbara

After letting me use their printer, an EAP advisor introduced me to her coworker who used to live in Japan. I couldn’t have been happier to hear that she used to teach English in my hometown, Shiga prefecture.

Before meeting these advisors, UCSB had felt too huge, with so many things going on that it was hard to find someone I could count on. But my experience with the staff at the Study Abroad Program convinced me I was wrong: UCSB - and even this entire world - is small enough to find someone happy to help.

  A map at the EAP office showing UCSB’s study abroad programs all over the world

A map at the EAP office showing UCSB’s study abroad programs all over the world

Four months have passed since I visited EAP office for the first time, and I still go there almost every week just to talk to people. I meet not only advisors, but many domestic students there. The EAP office is the perfect place for international students and domestic students to interact with each other.

Whenever I enter the office, the first person who talks to me is a peer advisor, who has already studied abroad and come back to UCSB. The peer advisors mainly support domestic students who can learn from their experience. They are so helpful for those students, and I too hear a lot of stories from senior students who have studied abroad before coming here, which in turn helps me.

I sometime hesitate to talk with domestic student elsewhere on campus because I’m not confident about speaking in English. But, students coming the EAP office are an  exception; they understand how hard it is to speak in foreign language or study abroad. It’s easier for me to talk with them.

“Go everywhere, just go,” one of peer advisors said, offering advice on studying abroad. I keep these words in my mind, because I was able to feel at home on the UCSB campus, and met a lot of wonderful people by merely going to the EAP office.  And I wish a similar experience for American students who go abroad.

Rena Yokoue is a Junior international student majoring in Communication.