Ghavri: ‘Broad, Wholesome, Charitable’

Dartmouth students should take advantages of opportunities to study abroad.

by Anmol Ghavri | 10/12/17 12:45am

As a senior, I now get alumni and first-years asking for my reflections on my experiences and fleeting time at Dartmouth. Like most other seniors, I generally provide advice revolving around the intimate student-faculty academic relationships I have developed and on forging my own identity and academic and professional paths amid the conformist pressures and culture of our small, wooded campus. I would wager most students and alumni are aware of the pivotal importance of these factors, probably to the point of them becoming cliché. But one aspect of the Dartmouth experience that I think gets underplayed are the resources and programs Dartmouth provides to spend time studying abroad. Individual departments and the charming Off-Campus Programs office on College Street work incredibly hard to make studying abroad at Dartmouth accessible, inclusive, seamless and culturally enriching. Statistics are thrown around about how many students study abroad and how accessible it is, but it often is not conveyed just how eye-opening and life-changing spending time outside of your normal sphere of life can be.

To anyone reading this who is on the fence about going on an foreign study program or language study abroad, ask yourself: When will you have another chance to travel in this way? When we graduate and become working people, path dependency and American work culture for young people makes travel for travel’s sake impractical for many for reasons — financial and time constraints among them. Even when adults are able to travel, it is often for work or in solitude, not with peers in an educational and communal setting.

This is despite the fact that we live in a time of ease of travel and transportation. The contrast between the dangers and uncertainties of travel two- or three-hundred years ago and now is stark. Most major cities are no more than a 12- or 13-hour flight away from Boston or New York. Throughout most of human history, however, people were totally ignorant of the cultures and customs of their cousins across seas and continents. Even when they were able to travel more freely and became more aware of the diversity of human cultures, customs and societies, people often encountered danger and could only travel if they could spend the money and afford to spend weeks, if not months, on the seas. Most people’s knowledge of “foreign” lands still came through secondhand or thirdhand sources like fiction or slow-moving news. Mark Twain wrote in his travel book “The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress” that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Still, travel today for travel’s sake and to develop “broad, wholesome, charitable views of men” remains a luxury for most people. With most Americans not having enough in their savings accounts to cover an unplanned $500 or $1,000 expense, it would be elitist and patronizing to expect everyone to be able to drop everything and spend time in a new place just to avoid “vegetating” in one little corner of the earth. This makes the four years we spend at Dartmouth even more unique, since this is a time when travel for travel and education’s sake is often achievable for many despite financial or time constraints.As Dartmouth students, we are incredibly privileged to have so many options and opportunities to study abroad. Indeed, I give Dartmouth credit for allowing financial aid to travel with a student and for designing programs meant to easily fit in with major plans, research plans and the quarter system. Moreover, Dartmouth’s abroad programs are almost always led by a Dartmouth professor with living situations arranged by the school. These factors make spending time abroad as seamless as possible and is probably why over half of Dartmouth students end up going on one of our FSP or LSA programs.

Of course, spending time on Dartmouth’s rural campus bestows its own benefits on scholarship and intellectual development. The solitude allows for introspection, and the close-knit student body and faculty relationships allow for productive engagement and collaborative research. Provinciality does not have to be a negative when one is self-aware about their place in the world. The duality of opportunities to travel outside of Hanover and opportunities for research and development when on campus create multiple layers of intellectual development and reflection. But studying abroad is also just fun, and that in and of itself is a good reason to begin looking into whether your academic plans are compatible with an FSP or LSA.

If any readers are on the fence about potentially studying abroad — especially first-years — I would tell you this: When you are an alumnus, I wager you will not regret that you did not dedicate more time to this club, that athletic team or some consulting internship, but you will regret not taking advantage of Dartmouth’s opportunities and resources to spend time studying abroad. At what other point in your life will you have the time and opportunity to spend three months in a new city just studying and exploring your environment? The combination of being young, utopian and in the presence of other young people in a new educational environment is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness. Whether it is Buenos Aires or Barcelona, Rome or Berlin, Hyderabad or Beijing, I urge every Dartmouth student, if at all possible, to spend some time away from our small college in the woods.