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Is study abroad too often a long vacation?

Posted by Christopher Shea  September 22, 2009 02:28 PM

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Some of these beachgoers in Spain are "studying abroad"

Some American colleges--Yale, for example--used to be so presumptuous as to say that students would be better off spending all four years on the campus. The argument was that courses in the U.S. were more rigorous than most of those that students could find abroad. Want to see the world? Take a grand tour after college.

You don't hear such arguments anymore. To study abroad is an expected, and seldom-challenged, part of the American college experience.

Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, however [subscribers only], John F. Burness, a visiting policy professor at Duke, says there's more than a grain of truth to the old-fashioned view. The courses students take in study-abroad programs are often weaker than the ones they take at home. And too many students, he says, treat study-abroad programs as an extended opportunity to travel, with coursework, at best, a bonus.

Now travel is nice and all (and, to be sure, the best study-abroad programs are simultaneously challenging and horizon-expanding). But as one Marshall Scholar, a serious recent graduate, tells Burness: "For many students, study abroad is a semester off, not a semester on."

(Photo: Getty)

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1 comments so far...
  1. No doubt, some students treat an overseas study experience as a vacation, but you should certainly look into programs such as InterFuture, based at Suffolk University, that are more in-depth and present students with a real opportunity to immerse themselves in another culture. IF is an independent study programs that allows undergrads the opportunity to perform original research under the supervision of a local advisor. This program allowed me to travel to Northern Ireland and South Africa to study negotiation of political conflict. Importantly, I lived with local families and did not have much contact with other American students. Over 10 years later, It has had an huge impact on my career and personal development.

    Posted by Stephanie September 26, 09 10:49 AM
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