As study abroad deadlines begin to loom larger on the horizon, members of the class of 2015 are in the process of deciding whether to study abroad and choosing an off-campus studies program. In previous years, students have been allowed to choose from about 40 different partner programs with which to study abroad their junior year. However, for the first time, the class of 2015 will be able to choose from a list with double the number of programs offered.
“Because of the many interesting challenges in the global issues in the world today, we wanted to increase the number of options available to students,” said Susan Holme Brick, director of off-campus studies. “We’ve made a lot of additions to our off-campus studies partner programs in the developing world. We now have four new programs in Africa, seven in Asia, one in the Middle East, six in Latin America, four in Central and Southeastern Europe and some new ones in Western Europe.”
With the addition of these new programs, the Off-Campus Studies Office has incorporated input from professors and departments in order to add specific programs that will be beneficial to the students in their respective majors.
“These programs have been vetted by the Off-Campus Studies Committee and faculty in the major departments,” said Brick. “For example, the art department really recommended we work with the Glasgow School of Art in Glasgow, Scotland, so studio art majors can attend this renowned art academy. The theatre department asked if we could please partner with The Eugene O’Neill Center’s National Theater Institute in Connecticut. Because the faculty has helped us identify the best programs for students in their fields, we believe that these off-campus study opportunities will be excellent locations for Whitman students.”
New informational changes have also been added to better organize the various programs by majors for the students. In every department, professors have been attending various meetings to create new pages on the off-campus website that describe to the students programs that can be taken to best complement their majors.
“Another new thing is the pages online called ‘Off-Campus Study Advising Sheets by Major’ that describe to the students, depending on their major, the recommended off-campus study programs which will hopefully help them make their program selection,” said Brick.
In increasing the number of study abroad programs, the Off-Campus Studies Office has changed the financial aid aspect as well. Before, students had to pay for what the program charged plus the $500 off-campus study fee, which would restrict some students from going abroad because financial aid did not apply to so many places. With this new change, new financial aid will play into effect in order to keep up the number of students who study abroad, and so Whitman need-based financial aid and merit scholarships are applicable to all 80-plus partner programs.
“We’re changing how we charge fees. Students will be charged Whitman tuition plus program room and board, and estimated additional expenses will include airfare and other personal expenses,” said Brick. “Modifying how fees are charged enables us to have a financially stable program and allows us to increase the number of options available to students.”
The difference between the new fee model and the previous fee model is that the previous model capped the amount of aid students received when going abroad as compared to the amount received on campus. So if there were a $2000 gap because studying abroad might be more expensive, the students would have to pay the remaining fee. In the new model, the Off-Campus Studies Office is able to offer more aid for those going to places with more expensive costs of living, like England.
Although these new changes and elaborations will affect the students’ study abroad choices for the full year, fall or spring semester, they will not affect students studying abroad over the summer, because Whitman does not have a summer term on campus.
“Students who want to study for credit in a foreign country in the summer still have a wide range of options. They can find a summer program of interest––even on the Internet––and apply through Off-Campus Studies for approval through the Summer Study Abroad Transfer Credit Application,” said Brick.
Some students are already planning their study abroad programs and are excited for the improved and bigger list of available places.
“There could be some really cool opportunities to learn about the rise of communism and being behind the Iron Curtain, and then the transition in the last 20 years to a basically capitalist system,” said sophomore Julia Thompson, who hopes to benefit from a new partner program in the Czech Republic. “It’s cool because this history is so recent, and I can hopefully actually learn about what happened from people who experienced it. There are tons of classes offered by [the Council on International Educational Exchange] in Prague, definitely some great history ones and others too.”
Programs appeal to students who have specific academic interests as places to best explore those interests.
“I have always been interested in environmental issues, and Denmark is a world leader in green efforts. I’m excited for the opportunity to live in rural countrysides, but still close to a city. I hope to experience its Scandinavian culture while learning from the sustainability program in Denmark,” said sophomore environmental humanities major Erik Anderson.
The Off-Campus Studies Office continues to plan on expanding the study abroad list to enhance the experience students receive while abroad academically and financially, while still maintaining the enthusiasm students have for studying abroad. At this point, they hope the new programs added that link with specific majors and better financial aid will increase the number of students who study abroad.
“Whitman students have high standards academically, and one of our greatest challenges is to find really rigorous study abroad programs for our students where they feel like they’re learning a lot, having free time to enjoy the community they’re in, but at the same time being academically challenged,” said Brick.