Opinion Asks: Study Abroad

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 1/4/16 7:34pm

Students tend to think about opportunities like studying abroad in terms of how they contribute to their major. Going to Spain obviously benefits someone studying Spanish, just as studying abroad in China benefits someone interested in East Asian studies. A student’s interests, however, do not have to be internationally related for a term abroad to be valuable; studying abroad is useful for a student of any major. As an English major and writer, I know that travelling can help me discover creative possibilities that would be impossible if I simply stayed on campus every term. This discovery does not depend on travelling with the English department. Many writers who I respect took inspiration from visiting other countries, such as Zora Neale Hurston, whose “Tell My Horse” was spurred by a visit to Haiti and Jamaica. And collaboration between scientists from multiple countries to develop new theories and experiments is common, therefore taking STEM courses in another country helps a student grow accustomed to a globalized world of science. Studying abroad also has benefits outside of the academic as the experience leads to adaptability in new situations, independence and, most importantly, open-mindedness.

- Clara Chin ’19

Study abroad programs allow students to develop a global perspective, one infinitely more rich, more valuable and more profound than anything that can be simulated in a classroom. When Dartmouth students spend time abroad, they create important connections. Not just physical ones — like the names, email addresses and phone numbers jotted down in a notebook after a term spent meeting people of different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds — but also personal and emotional ones. Students gain a deeper understanding of the environment that they are studying and a deeper sense of care. They are likely to keep reading about the countries they visit, keep communicating with the people they’ve met and are likely to be more affected by and thus more inclined to help if an unfortunate incident happens. Study abroad programs not only further intellectual development, catalyze personal growth and refine cultural and linguistic knowledge, but they also strengthen bonds between countries and soften often rigid international borders. They make us care. They make places in the world hitherto unfamiliar to us now feel like second homes. They make us better global citizens and they make us want to jump out of our seats and get our hands dirty when the countries we visit suffer terror and tragedy. In that way, the positive impact of studying abroad cannot be diminished by any potential inconveniences or missed opportunities on campus.

- Ioana Solomon ’19

Anytime we make value judgments about some element of the academic experience, we can easyily use the wrong metric. To some, studying abroad may seem like a distraction from serious study or a waste of time and money. That term could be better spent, some might argue, doggedly pursuing your major and a fat paycheck. However, using money or majors as the metric through which we value education is a depressing way to view college life. Andrew Abbott, in his “Aims of Education” address, argued that education “enable[s] ourselves to experience more of life in a given present, a given now.” Education, in other words, is about having as many interesting, fulfilling experiences as you can jam into roughly 80 years of existence. A better metric for educational experiences should be fulfillment per day (FPD). How much of life do you get out of a single day? I can think of few experiences that would rank higher on a FPD scale than studying abroad. Not to mention that of your 80 to 90 years of life, most of your time will likely be spent in a career which, while hopefully fulfilling, doesn’t afford much opportunity to travel for extended periods of time. So if we use the correct metric, FDP, studying abroad makes perfect sense.

- Steven Chun ’19