By Published: Oct. 17, 2018

From the time she was a young girl, Michaela Bara knew she wanted to study abroad in the United States. Born and raised in the small, coastal town of Victoria, Argentina, Bara needed to find a way to feed her passion for travel.

EducationUSA Academy group at NCAR in Boulder

EducationUSA Academy group at NCAR in Boulder.

In fall of 2017, Bara traveled to Buenos Aires for a university fair and a representative for EducationUSA Academy recommended a month-long study abroad program in Colorado. Without hesitation, the high school senior applied and soon found herself at the foot of the Flatirons in Boulder.

Now, she’s an open option major in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, thanks to the EducationUSA Academy at CU Boulder. “Thanks to the EducationUSA Academy, I know not only about the education system here, but also college life in the USA,” Bara said.

The EducationUSA Academy is a program for international, college-bound students who want to study in the U.S. CU Boulder has been a host institution for this program since 2015 and was one of two universities to pilot the initiative. There are now 15 universities hosting summer programs, with two locations hosting winter sessions, as well. Bara participated in the program in January 2017, the first time it was offered in the winter.

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How to apply: For the January session, there is a downloadable PDF that students fill out. The application process will be online for the summer session.

Cost: $5,500 for instruction, materials, housing, activities, meals and health insurance. Does not include airfare.

Deadlines: Winter session deadline is Dec. 1. Summer session deadline is June 1. 

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Over the three years CU Boulder has been a participant in the EducationUSA Academy, students from 42 countries have come to campus.

“It was a really good program and I liked everything about it, but the fact there were six other people from all over the world and our cultures were very different was great,” Bara said. “Experiencing the same thing with people from all over the world was really cool.”

CU Boulder offered something special to Bara because she decided to apply as a full-time student after she completed the program.

“Because of the EducationUSA Academy, I was familiar with Boulder and I was able to explore it in depth,” says Bara. “I applied here because I had a great experience.”

Immersion into American college life

Holly Woodsome Sroymalai, the EducationUSA Academy program manager, said the program’s main goal is to prepare international students for life on an American campus.

“The goal is to have them come back here and study in the U.S.,” Sroymalai said.

Bara, right, and a friend pose for a photo with Chip at a Buffs basketball game

Bara, right, and a friend pose for a photo with Chip at a Buffs basketball game.

EducationUSA Academy is affiliated with the U.S. Department of State and is designed for international high school-aged students. July academy students live in on-campus residence halls, while January academy students live with local host families.

CU students take four courses on university preparation, U.S. culture, test preparation and entrepreneurship. The students also tour other college campuses around Colorado, including the Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University, University of Denver and Colorado College.

“It’s not only important to expose them to U.S. culture, but it’s also important for them to get to know each other and gain an international understanding,” Sroymalai said. “The experiences the students have and the friends they make will benefit them for the rest of their lives.”

Making friends, hitting the slopes

There were also activities offered to the students. For example, Bara and her peers had the chance to go skiing. It was her first time on the slopes.

“It was so much fun because some people had never even seen snow before,” Bara said.

The experience of staying with a host family is a unique aspect of the winter session. Bara was placed with Irena Majeticova and her family in Boulder. Bara and her international friends spent time with Majeticova’s family, including two twin daughters who are now seniors at CU Boulder.

“I was able to help them enjoy Boulder and learn from my culture,” said Majeticova, who is from the Czech Republic but has lived in Boulder for 17 years.

EducationUSA Academy group waiting to ride the Denver light rail

EducationUSA Academy group waiting to ride the Denver light rail.

Majeticova enjoyed hosting so much she plans to do it again.

“This is a wonderful program that helps add diversity to Boulder,” Majeticova said.

Just a month into freshman year, Bara said she has made a great group of friends and been to her first college football game. She credits EducationUSA Academy with making the transition to college life a smooth one.

“For anyone who has the ability to come here, I would really recommend it because it is one of those experiences that you’ll never forget,” Bara said. “You get to exchange cultures with people from all over the world, and you learn how to be independent.”