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BME faculty launches first faculty-directed study abroad program

Park Guell, Barcelona, Spain

Between its stunning Gothic architecture to the many cultures that inhabit the city, Barcelona, Spain is a popular travel destination. Although, not very well known are the many advancements of biomaterials and engineering within the country.

After realizing that the College of Engineering does not yet have a faculty-led study abroad program and wanting to share her love of travel and help students to widen their perspectives, Richard and Loan Hill Department of Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Tolou Shokuhfar began the process to create the Biomaterials in Barcelona study abroad program.

This four-week faculty-directed program is open to all College of Engineering students along with students interested in biomaterials.

Shokuhfar shared that during her time in Europe, she “got to appreciate a lot of positives as far as cultural exposure learning about histories of where a lot of Nobel prizes and scientists rose from with that culture and how the cultural environment in Europe helped to develop certain scientific knowledge that gave me a different and wider perspective so these different perspectives were always making me motivated to one day provide the same opportunity to my own students.”

“Engineering students are underrepresented in national study abroad data because of their demanding curriculum and school obligations,” said Kyle Rausch, the Executive Director of the UIC Study Abroad Office.

A common misconception is that engineering students cannot study abroad, which isn’t the case. According to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors report, the amount of STEM students studying abroad in 2019-2020 was 24.5 percent.

During the program, students will visit the Barcelona Institute of Global Health, Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Biomedical Research Park, and the Institute of Bioengineering of Catalonia. The program also features social-cultural activities, including day trips to Sitges and Girona, guided tours of the Gothic Quarter and Sagrada Família, and a Spanish and Catalan cooking class, among many more adventures.

The application deadline for this study abroad program is Monday, February 26. Application decisions will be released on a rolling basis.

“The important thing to know is this study abroad should not have to cost more than a typical semester at UIC,” Shokuhfar said.

The program costs $4,985, which includes tuition for 5 UIC credits for BME 194 and BME 494, shared housing in a centrally-located neighborhood, local transportation for program excursions, unlimited metro pass, some group meals, and international health insurance. There is a non-refundable $50 application fee and $200 study abroad fee.

Participants are responsible for airfare, passport, visa (if applicable), most meals, and personal expenses and some meals.

Rausch added that students can use their UIC financial aid to help pay for their study abroad. There are also a variety of scholarships to help students pay for their study abroad experience.

For questions, email Kyle Rausch at To apply for the program or for more information, visit

Another financial aid opportunity available to students who receive a Pell Grant can apply for the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. The program is part of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and STEM majors are competitive applicants. Applications are due Thursday, March 7, at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time.

For more information or to apply, visit