South Africa—City to Safari
University Writing Program
I first studied abroad as an UCLA undergraduate during my junior year at the University of Sussex. That year was life-changing, and, as a result, I returned to Sussex to do my Master’s degree in Renaissance Literature. After receiving my PhD from UCLA in 1984, I came to Davis to teach. I taught my first Summer Abroad program in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1988. In 2000, my wife and I designed a Summer Abroad course that we taught in Australia that spent three weeks in Melbourne and a week in Kakadu National Park. Two years later, using the Australia model, I designed and taught a program in South Africa that spends three weeks in Cape Town, two days in Johannesburg, and a week in Karongwe Game Reserve. I’ve now taught a total of 21 overseas courses—one in London, six in Scotland, six in Australia, and eight in South Africa. In fall, 2004, I became the Director of Summer Abroad at UC Davis and served in this role for 10 years until my retirement in June 2014.
“The Eric we know is a bird watcher (all self-taught), a food connoisseur (not once were we disappointed when it came to food in South Africa), a teacher (ask him anything), a student (he is not afraid to ask anything), a party planner (two students got to celebrate their birthdays in South Africa), a scuba diver (he went off to have his own shark adventure when we went cage diving), a photographer (I wish my pictures came out that well), an adviser (back when I was foolishly debating about going on this trip), and an inspiration (I hope to one day be able to turn my passion for anything — be it travel or otherwise — into a 30+ year career).”
A Message to Students and Parents
Because of the transformative role education abroad played in my own life, my work as a Summer Abroad teacher aims to provide similar experiences in the lives of University of California students. I love to travel and I learned early on that it’s not enough to simply show up in another country—if you really want to experience a place you need to immerse yourself in its culture. Study abroad provides an excellent means for doing just this.
What’s so remarkable about the Summer Abroad programs that UC Davis offers is their rich combination of traditional classroom learning with experiential learning. On my own programs, for instance, the number of hours we spend on field trips actually exceeds the number of hours we spend in class. So not only will students learn a lot about the country they are visiting, they’ll experience that country in depth, too. My field trips are extremely diverse; they include visits to national parks, sites of historical interest, museums, art galleries, botanical gardens, theatre performances, and always lots of interaction with the natural world, looking at plants, birds, and mammals—and sometimes great white sharks.
Remember: If you plan it, it will happen.