New Study-Abroad Program Lacks Organization

    Dear Editor,

    The 2008 Costa Rica Global Seminars study-abroad program was memorable and was an experience none of us will forget. However, the program was the product of misleading advertising by shoddy, money-minded administrators. Issues arose before we even embarked on our journey. Orientation information implied that scholarships and financial aid would be easily obtained and costs would not be a problem. Later, we were told that we didn’t qualify for aid and the fees were nonrefundable. By then we had paid nearly $3,000 of the required $5,000.

    The administrators provided us with a breakdown of costs — which consisted of our tuition, housing and program fees. What they did not tell us (until billing) was that we were to also pay a “Special Summer Session.” We later discovered that we were paying for the University Center and recreation facilities. But being in Costa Rica, how could we take advantage of these?
    The Global Seminars representative was rude, uninformative and unhelpful. When students had problems, they were told to go check the Web site or deal with it themselves. Polite assistance rather than snippy responses would have been appreciated.

    In Costa Rica, the list of administrative grievances increased. Communication between UCSD and Centers for Academic Programs Abroad (our study-abroad provider) were poor. We paid for five weekend excursions but only received three. We were informed on the day of two of these trips that we needed to buy our meals. Several of us didn’t carry enough money so our professor, Milton Saier, paid. Upon reaching our destinations, we were twice told that the excursion fees were unpaid.

    Our homestay families were not paid adequately and tour guides sometimes vanished; we paid $3,500 for this? Painfully, a group from Mississippi told us they had paid only $1,000 per person for similar excursions. We asked the CAPA representative for a breakdown. The reply: only UCSD had the information; later, UCSD told us that CAPA had it. It was then that we realized where most of our money had gone: administration.

    — Sima Patel and Cindy Yiu
    UCSD Global Seminars participants

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