Guidelines for Applying Education Abroad Courses for ES Majors

Because of the built-in flexibility of its curriculum the Environmental Studies Program allows students to participate in courses, programs, and opportunities that lead to independent thinking and experiential learning that can deepen one’s understanding of the causes and effects of today’s environmental problems on a global scale. Choosing to study abroad through UCSB's Education Abroad Program (EAP) or an independent program who's units are UC transferable, is one way to obtain such an experience.

Each year the ES Program has dozens of students studying abroad in over 17 countries through the UC's Education Abroad Program - countries such as New Zealand, Ghana, Chile, England, Costa Rica, Denmark, China/Hong Kong, Italy, Netherlands, and Australia to name a few.  As the “environment” exists everywhere, ES students’ options as to where to study the environmental is virtually unlimited (assuming you meet the foreign language and GPA prerequisites required for a particular program).

Below is information ES students who wish to participate in a UC Education Abroad Program (EAP) should understand to maximize their experience abroad and best apply units earned towards major requirements. It's HIGHLY RECOMMENDED any student who plans to apply for a study abroad program review this information before setting up a meeting with the ES Advisor to get their EAP Academic Planning form signed.


#1)  A student may satisfy as many lower-division major requirements as they wish while abroad (no limit).  Just make sure the course description of the EAP course(s) are similar to that of those offered at UCSB.

#2)  For either the B.A. or B.S. major, the maximum number of abroad (EAP) units that may be applied towards the upper-division are:

  •  Area A (required ES courses) = 4 units             
  •  Area B (ES electives) = 12 units   
  •  Area C (outside concentration) = up to the entire 16 (B.S.) or 20 units (B.A.)           

For the Hydrologic Sciences and Policy major:

  • Area A (required courses) = 8 units      
  • Area B (required for emphasis) = 4 to 8 units        
  • Area B (electives) = 8-12 units

#3)  To apply courses to Area A (required courses) the description of the EAP course must be VERY similar to the course offered/required at UCSB.  Check course descriptions carefully and make sure they are at least 70% the same; otherwise, you run the risk it not being accepted.

#4)  EAP courses may be applied to Area B (ES electives) if any of the following are met:  1) course content is similar to an ES course offered at UCSB (course descriptions are similar),  or 2) it's a unique course with no UCSB equivalent, but content studies how humans interact with their natural environment.  Basically, if the word "environment" is included in the title of the course, there is a good chance it will work as an Area B elective.  NOTE:  ES B.S. majors must complete 20 units from the B-1 elective list (ES courses that incorporate a significant amount of physical and/or natural science concepts).  Students are welcome to apply EAP units to this section, but beware one must prove the course integrates physical or natural sciences concepts while addressing an environmental topic.  A good rule to follow is if the course has a biology, chemistry, math, statistics, or earth science prerequisite then chances are good it will apply to the Area B-1. 

Hydrology majors need to carefully consider which section they are trying to apply upper-division abroad (EAP) course(s).  If it’s an Area A required or Area B required course for  one’s emphasis then the course descriptions needs to be match up very closely.  If for the Area B elective section, then it should be similar to a course description already on the list.  However, ES will consider unique hydrology related courses for the elective section as long as the content can be shown to focus on hydrology or be related to one’s emphasis.

#5)  The Area C (Outside Concentration) is the most flexible part of the ES major and students who study abroad have the option to fulfill up to the entire 16-20 units required in this section with EAP coursework.  Students should follow one of the two options available for this area when considering EAP courses for Area C.

1) Single department option:  Complete any 16-20 upper-division, letter graded, units from any ONE department or program.  Just make sure all the units are from the same department and one is good to go! 

2) Interdisciplinary emphasis:  The combination of 16-20 upper-division units from more than one department or program may be used to create a concentration of study as long as they form a coherent emphasis linking the Area C courses together.  Remember, a student pursuing this option must justify how chosen courses relate to each other and create a desired emphasis by petition. Students may also consider combining units from both UCSB and abroad to meet one of these two requirements.


a)  EAP units one wishes to apply to GE and University requirements must be petitioned and approved through the College of Letters and Science, not the ES Program.

b)  EAP students may take both lower-division and upper-division units when abroad.  However, a vast majority of students who go abroad are junior or seniors, and most need and take abroad (EAP) courses that apply to their upper-division part of the major.  Please be sure to verify with EAP and host university that any courses one wishes to take and transfer back to the upper-division in the ES major is accepted by UCSB as upper-division.  ES can't use lower-division courses for upper-division requirements, period!

c)  No EAP courses are officially accepted towards major requirements till one completes the course(s), officially transferres them back to UCSB, and, a Petition for Degree Requirements is filed and approved by the ES Program.  Thus, no matter what course(s) one hopes to take while abroad, it will only officially count towards ES after one returns to UCSB and completes the petition process. Thus, to give you the best chance that abroad units will be accepted towards your major it’s critical you understand and follow the “rules” outlined above.

d)  When filling out the EAP Academic Planning Form one should include as many EAP courses as one finds interesting and wants to apply towards major requirements.  However, be aware that when it comes time to register for EAP classes there is no guarantee those specific courses will be available to you (not offered that quarter, not met prerequisites, etc.). In such situations one may have to make a split second decision and select substitute course(s) to enroll in.  This is a regular occurrence and should not be a cause for panic as long as one understands the ES Program’s “Rules for Applying EAP credit” and selects courses accordingly.  Student are welcome to seek the advice of the ES Advisor when registering abroad by emailing course titles and descriptions and asking if they will satisfy a particular major requirement. 

e)  After completing one’s abroad courses be sure to hold on to the course description and syllabi as these can be helpful when petition courses where the title or course description is not clear as to what the course was actually about.

f) EAP Academic Planning Form:  Once one understands the “Rules for Applying EAP credit” and has had a chance to look over possible EAP courses they wish to take they most likely will have to have this form reviewed and signed by your department advisor.  As long as once can demonstrate they understand how and where they can apply EAP units towards one’s major requirements the advisor will gladly sign off on their EAP application.  When ready to get one’s completed EAP Academic Planning Form signed by an advisor just bring it, along with an updated ES Major Requirement Worksheet, to the ES Advisor. Students can drop-in to see the ES Advisor in Bren 4312 during posted office hours or email to set up a appointment.  The ES Major Requirement Worksheets can be downloaded at