SBCC Celebrates 50 Years of its Study Abroad Program

On Tuesday, Oct. 24, Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) and the SBCC Foundation will host a celebration commemorating the 50-year anniversary of its Study Abroad program, which has afforded college students the invaluable opportunity to visit and learn in countries outside of the U.S.

Tuesday’s celebration is sponsored by the SBCC Foundation and will be held on the patio of the Garvin Theatre on SBCC’s West campus.

“Study abroad provides students with a unique opportunity to learn about different cultures and perspectives, to broaden their horizons, to make friends from around the world, and to enhance their intercultural competency while earning transferable credits and progressing on their academic path,” said Assistant Superintendent/Vice President, School of Extended Learning and longtime director of the Study Abroad program Carola Smith. “Students acquire important skills such as intercultural communication skills, language proficiency, adaptability and problem-solving skills.”

Close to 100 SBCC faculty members served as program directors for the trips and developed curriculum and agendas for the excursions. “Faculty wear multiple hats when they lead students abroad, from instructor to counselor to administrator,” Smith said. “They share their passion and expertise in their field while assisting students with their cultural adaptation, intercultural development, and personal and academic growth.”

Recent programs have included summer classes in communication and film studies in Tokyo, Japan, offered for the third time in Summer, 2024; marine biology and oceanography/anthropology and sociology courses in Bali, Indonesia; and Spanish language study in Bolivia. The repeating Paris and Rome programs in film studies, photography, art history and Italian language are especially popular.

Student Jude Holhaus, who returned from Paris/Rome in Fall 2022, recalled, “As my time in Europe comes to an end, I’ve done a lot of reflection on myself and my time here. I’ve grown a lot as a person and had a lot of experiences that are unforgettable. The most profound memories I’ll take away from this trip are the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met and can now call my friends. ”

While SBCC Study Abroad programs are fully funded by student fees, many students who might not think they would ever have the opportunity to study abroad can take advantage of scholarship programs to assist with its costs. The program works proactively with the SBCC Foundation, SBCC Financial Aid, EOPS, and other programs on campus to educate students on the availability of scholarships and financial assistance. Since 2001, SBCC has been recognized as one of the Top Gilman Scholar-producing community colleges in the nation. The Gilman Scholarship supports students who have high financial needs and who have traditionally been underserved in study abroad.

SBCC serves as host institution to the Central Coast Study Abroad Consortium, which includes five California community colleges (SBCC, Alan Hancock College, Cuesta College, Moorpark College, and Ventura College). Through the Consortium, SBCC has been able to make study abroad opportunities accessible to students at neighboring colleges, which do not have consistent Study Abroad program offerings.

Brief history of the SBCC Study Abroad program

SBCC was one of the first community colleges in the state to develop comprehensive semester abroad programs, and early on, developed state and national prominence for excellence and innovation. Since its first credit summer program in 1973, more than 6,500 SBCC students from a wide variety of disciplines have participated in study abroad programs in approximately 20 different countries, including Mexico, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Italy, England, France, the former Soviet Union, New Zealand, Australia, China and Vietnam.

In 1985, SBCC was the first community college to offer a semester-long program in China, providing subsequent program participants with the opportunity to witness first-hand the pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989; and in 1990 was the first community college to offer a full-length credit semester program in the Ukraine (when it was still part of the former Soviet Union), where students observed the nationalist and political independence movements preceding the break-up of the Soviet Union. In 2002, SBCC was one of the first community colleges to offer a summer program in Cuba; and more recently was among the first community colleges to pioneer programs in Cambodia, Thailand, Turkey, India, Rwanda, South Africa and Indonesia.

Former faculty member and long-time administrator Pablo Buckelew pioneered SBCC’s first internationalization efforts and implemented SBCC’s Study Abroad program; and Roberto Robledo directed the first summer program in Mexico in 1973, coordinating those programs for many years. Former SBCC Superintendent President John Romo was instrumental in the development of SBCC’s first semester program to Cambridge, England, in the early 1980s and strongly supported international education throughout his career at SBCC; and former faculty member and later member of the SBCC Board of Trustees, Dr. Peter Haslund, pioneered semester programs in China, Vietnam and the former Soviet Union, subsequently leading programs over a time span of more than 30 years.

Read up on more current adventures of Study Abroad students in the SBCC Academic Adventure Travel Blog.


Written by SBCC

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