Study abroad programs allow students to pursue passions

by Sunny Drescher | 9/11/18 9:00am

Ask any Dartmouth tour guide, and they’ll tell you: 60 percent of Dartmouth students study abroad once, 30 percent study abroad twice and 10 percent study abroad three times or more. But why is this the case? Why is Dartmouth first in the Ivy League for study abroad participation?

According to government professor John Carey, Dartmouth’s study abroad programs are unique from other schools’. This includes the programs’ structure and their transfer of the Dartmouth community around the world. For most of the foreign study programs and language study abroad experiences, a Dartmouth faculty member accompanies the cohort of students and helps them engage with their off-campus experiences while maintaining a sense of connection to the College, according to executive director of the Guarini Institute John Tansey.

“What’s exceptional about Dartmouth is that so much of what we offer is faculty directed, so students are going abroad with a Dartmouth faculty [member], and there is a very tight integration with the on-campus curriculum,” Tansey said.

Currently, the College offers over 40 programs in 29 countries and has move plans in development, according to Tansey.

Carey, who led the government FSP in fall 2016, said that Dartmouth’s attention to undergraduate education is exemplified in the structure of the College’s study abroad programs. He said the off-campus program allowed him to get to know students more extensively than a traditional classroom experience would allow in Hanover.

The government program is traditionally led by a faculty member, but students also take classes at the London School of Economics. Carey said that he was able to collaborate with the LSE professors to develop expectations for Dartmouth students to help them “take their own curriculum to the Dartmouth students more effectively.”

Carey said that he lived in the same apartment building as the students which allowed for more interaction outside of the classroom. This more intimate setting allowed for talking about life beyond the academic material, such as internships, travel and “other things that get crowded out in Hanover because everyone is so much busier with extracurriculars and so forth.”

Kelsey Flower ’18, who participated in the government FSP under Carey’s direction, commented on the value of getting to share that kind of experience with a professor.

“Not only was [Carey] our seminar teacher, but we would also have dinner at his apartment and group discussions with him over coffee,” Flower said. “[After the FSP] I continued to stay close with him throughout my time at Dartmouth.”

Earth sciences lecturer and program director for the earth sciences domestic study program Ed Meyer also said that the integration of Dartmouth professors into study abroad experiences allow students and faculty to connect in ways that would be harder to do in a traditional classroom setting.

Meyer added that these relationships often continue back on campus and lead to students becoming involved in faculty research, working with faculty on senior theses and working in faculty members’ labs. Meyer said that these benefits would be less prominent if students were working with faculty from other institutions.

Meyer is the program director of “The Stretch,” an earth sciences domestic study program in which students travel through Canada and the continental United States covering interdisciplinary topics within the earth sciences. The Stretch, which Meyer said has been an offering since the 1960s, is distinct because it is led by a team of about eight professors who each lead a segment of the program to share their expertise and interest with the students.

Hanna Bliska ’20 is an environmental studies major who is going on the environmental studies FSP and biology FSP. She credits the Dartmouth faculty who run the environmental studies program for its accessibility to Dartmouth students.

“They’ve made these long-lasting relationships with people at different research centers and different ecological centers, and so having them as a conduit for being integrated into a community or a project is really helpful,” Bliska said.

Students are not confined to studying abroad within their major. Tansey said this is particularly true because of the language requirement. He explained that because of the liberal arts distributive requirements and the D-Plan, it becomes possible for a student studying chemistry to pursue an abroad program studying French, for example.

Flower, in addition to the government FSP, participated in a Spanish LSA to Barcelona the preceding spring.

“[When I applied for the LSA] I didn’t know exactly what my Dartmouth path was going to be, but I had taken Spanish through all of high school and wanted to push beyond what you could learn in an American Spanish class,” Flower said.

Flower said that both programs were invaluable to her Dartmouth experience, but she had different takeaways from each. Flower said that her LSA, for instance, helped her step out of her comfort zone and learn how to struggle at things that she had always been good at, such as reading and writing. Flower said the benefits from her time in Barcelona were “less academically tangible” than what she got out of the government FSP two terms later.

Flower commented how encouraging the Dartmouth community is regarding studying abroad and how it contributes to the culture of Dartmouth as a whole.

“The fact that so many students go abroad encourages even more people to study abroad,” Flower said. “It’s incredibly valuable in terms of learning, in terms of getting new experiences, and in terms of meeting new people.”

Carey said that his own study abroad experience in Bolivia as an undergraduate shaped the trajectory of his career, including influencing his decision to go to graduate school and pursue his current studies in comparative politics.

“[Studying abroad] has the opportunity to blow your mind in ways that regular classroom stuff doesn’t necessarily have the capacity to do, and gives you perspectives that you never would have gathered otherwise,” Carey said.

Flower is a former member of the Dartmouth Staff