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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Alone abroad: Brandeis needs to sponsor more options

Published: November 15, 2013
Section: Opinions

Studying abroad is gaining tremendous popularity both at Brandeis and at universities around the country. According to the Office of Study Abroad, on average nearly 40 percent of the junior class studies abroad at some point during the academic year, with even more students taking advantage of summer programs. Students who choose to study abroad during their junior year have a wealth of options and support from the university, which ensures that students select and apply to programs that meet their academic and personal interests and find a foreign city that will be exciting and fulfilling.

I was fortunate enough to take part in one of these programs this past spring. After several meetings with the Office of Study Abroad, I decided to apply to the Boston University London Internship program. When I received my acceptance to the program, I was instantly eager to begin preparing for what would be the most exciting semester of my college career.

Now, I do not want my opinion to discourage students from studying abroad. Speaking from my own experience, I think that every student should participate if she can and wants to study abroad. It was truly the experience of a lifetime and provided me with an entirely new worldview, among many other things. Having participated in a Boston University program, however, I will say this: I do wish that Brandeis sponsored at least some of its own abroad programs.

While Brandeis does directly sponsor three programs (one in Israel, one in the Hague and a new Science in India opportunity) these programs appear limited in their academic direction. Though the Boston University program provided me with many incredible opportunities, as I had the chance to live and work in one of the most bustling cities in Europe, the Boston University students who attended the program undoubtedly had an advantage.

Not only did they understand academic expectations better, but they could obtain course transfer credits more easily, and students from BU had an advantage in attending a program with friends and familiar faces. While many Brandeis students do study abroad on other university programs with friends from Brandeis, I feel that this creates a bit of an isolating experience. Students from the home university also had the advantage of having many friends who had attended the program in prior years, who could be used as resources in terms of what to pack and the best dorm to live in, among other things.

Studying abroad is one of the most important experiences that students should have while in college. The opportunity to live in a foreign city and see the world is unmatched. There might be no better time than college for a person to have that experience. For our students to have the most options in choosing an abroad experience, I feel that Brandeis should consider providing its own programs, or better yet, partnering with one or more schools to create campus-specific programs. That way, students can at least have the option of choosing a program that had direct links to their home university, both academically and socially.

I do not feel that a lack of Brandeis-sponsored abroad programs should discourage any student from studying abroad; there are many amazing programs that Brandeis allows students to participate in. I do, however, feel that if Brandeis wants to be on the cutting edge in terms of its global offerings, the university should consider sponsoring or cosponsoring more abroad programs.