Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Off-Campus Studies Office Welcomes Students Back From New Programs

Infographic by Julie Peterson.

As classes start up again for a new semester, students who spent the first half of the year abroad have returned to Whitman with no shortage of stories to tell.

This past semester, the Off-Campus Studies Office sent approximately 70 students abroad on semester- or year-long programs in over 30 countries across the globe, from Philadelphia to Vienna to Japan. Some of these programs were recently introduced as part of the office’s 2013 overhaul, which added many new programs to the roster and changed the way off-campus financial aid works.

In the fall, students were able to enroll in over 40 new partner programs, including more programs from previously underrepresented regions like Africa and Asia.

“We knew we needed to increase options in Africa,” said Director of Off-Campus Studies Susan Holme, noting the addition of programs in Morocco, South Africa and Ghana, not all of which have been taken advantage of by students yet.

The changes also affected financial aid for off-campus studies. More specifically, these changes allowed students to transfer their Whitman financial aid packages to any of Whitman’s partner programs instead of paying the program’s tuition directly. In the past, students could only transfer aid to certain partner programs. Now all of Whitman’s approved programs allow transferable aid packages, and students are required to pay their Whitman tuition in place of the program tuition, if they wish to transfer this aid.

Last year, approximately 36 percent of the junior class participated in off-campus studies programs. According to Holme, the percentage of participating students this year has not been significantly impacted by the changes in the office. However, these changes have created more opportunities for students whose options may have been restricted by their financial aid.

Though participation in study abroad has remained stable, interest in the new programs hasn’t spiked with their introduction. One exception to this trend is an international studies program in Denmark, which attracted the highest number of students out of all available programs last semester.

“Some of the new programs I think students haven’t really discovered yet. We haven’t had as many students trying them. Maybe they’re waiting to hear from other students about how they are. It’s sometimes a problem at Whitman where it takes a little while for word to get out. We’ve had fewer students trying the new programs than I would hope, but I think students will gradually try them,” said Holme.

One thing that hasn’t changed in the realm of off-campus studies is the somewhat insidious presence of reverse culture shock, which many students who study abroad don’t expect when they leave. According to Holme, conflicts or discomfort can arise between students and their families and friends due to an “information gap” created by their new experiences abroad, and many of them will have difficulty finding their place in the Whitman community again. She also noted that the office does its best to provide events and activities for students to use what they’ve learned in their travels.

“Sometimes before students go off campus I think they don’t realize that coming back is almost harder. When you go abroad, you anticipate that it’s going to be challenging or different, but when you come back you don’t necessarily anticipate that it’s going to be hard because it’s home,” said Holme.

The Off-Campus Studies Office continues to provide resources for students returning to campus while developing and advertising their newer programs and reaching out to a wider portion of the student body.

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