Off Campus Studies Office Announces Mandatory Study Abroad

Olivia Gilbert

In an effort to create leaders capable of operating in our increasingly interconnected world, the Off-Campus Studies Department announced this past Friday in a formal email a new graduation requirement. All Whitman students must, effective immediately, take part in a study abroad program at some point during their four years at Whitman. The requirement is part of the OCS department’s larger, newly-launched program of Mandated Cultural Exposure.
The program’s head developer, Ms. Hoddlewop, commented: “While we realize the program title sounds a bit intense, it is our firm belief that the mandated study abroad time will expand students’ horizon and enable them to better navigate a globalizing and multicultural world. “Plus,” she added, “it’s going to make them sound way cooler and more worldly at parties and future social gatherings, especially tame house parties in students’ mid-forties.”
According to the official email, the stated purpose of the new requirement includes providing each student “a unique cultural experience,” which includes the “ability to reference local customs, repeat obscure phrases in a foreign language, and recall colorful cultural anecdotes, so as to give the impression of worldliness and ensure one-uppery of peers.” Additionally, time spent immersed in another culture will promote “intercultural fluency, whatever that is.”
President Mathy Kurray responded to the change with positivity: “This puts Whitman on the cutting edge of multicultural pluralism and sustainable, diverse global awareness that will foster independent global leaders and enable them to navigate a post-modern landscape of intercultural intersection.” When asked to expand on this, particularly the last seven words, Kurray reportedly looked immediately nauseated and confused, uttering the single word “multiculturalawareness” and rushing to the nearest exit.
In terms of student reactions, Whitties are largely confused by the mandate, commenting that study abroad is something nearly every student is “thinking about lately, if I can fit it in with my schedule, but I’m not really sure whether I want to go to Jaipur or Vienna, like I know Jaipur would be more of an ‘authentic cultural experience’ but my parents would rather I go to Europe and even though that is totally West-centric of them I kind of can see where they’re coming from, but then again I really think Jaipur…[trails off incoherently].”
Some students, however, expressed doubts over whether mandated study abroad is the best way to provide a “unique cultural experience.” Why doesn’t Whitman instead promote, or at least present as an option, time spent abroad in a less structured environment, one in students must navigate a new place without guidance from academic institutions?
Prominent free spirit Ricky Ontonopolous cited his six months spent independently traveling in Nepal as being “life-changing” precisely because he “wasn’t tied down to an administrative bureaucracy.” The trip cost Ricky only $4,000 in comparison to study abroad’s lofty fees that also require students to pay tuition.
The email’s closing statement quells these concerns: “Only through a highly mechanized process of cultural exposure can the most unique and valuable cultural experience be obtained, systematically, for every student.”