Many students take advantage of College's study abroad options

by Debby Cobon | 2/7/20 2:10am

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A significant majority of Dartmouth students report being very interested in studying abroad. 

by Julia Lavine / The Dartmouth

This article is featured in the 2020 Winter Carnival special issue.  

Dartmouth strives to make its student body global citizens through a curriculum which reaches beyond Hanover through domestic and international study programs. One aspect of Dartmouth that draws students to the College is its study abroad offerings and the College’s commitment to the value of global learning through international study and global engagement.

According to the 2018 Survey of New Students conducted by the Office of Institutional Research, 75 percent of Dartmouth students say they are very interested in studying abroad. 

Dartmouth currently offers a total of 44 officially recognized off-campus programs, including 19 language study abroad programs, 23 foreign study programs and two domestic study programs. However, Dartmouth also offers the opportunity to pursue an exchange term at 27 recognized institutions sponsored by the Frank J. Guarini Institute for International Education. 

The most popular study abroad programs include the Dartmouth-Oxford exchange program, the Rome FIRE program in the summer, and the Spanish, French and Italian LSAs according to Guarini Institute executive director John Tansey.

Dartmouth’s study abroad opportunities are spread globally with four programs in Africa, nine in Asia, four in Australia and the Pacific Island, two in Central America, 38 in Europe, two in the Middle East, 19 in North America, six in South America and two in the West Indies.

Winter term is the most popular time to study abroad, with 38 programs available. There are 46 programs offered in the fall, 27 in the spring, 12 in the summer and five year-round. 

Despite many students’ expressed interests, there has been a recent decrease in foreign study programs offered. Many off-campus programs have been canceled due to low student enrollment and a decrease in student and faculty interest.

Both off-campus and exchange programs exist for many departments but exclude some, such as chemistry, comparative literature, neuroscience, quantitative social science and studio art. 

Tansey said that whether a program is available for a department comes down to student demand and faculty interest.

“It’s pretty clear why the language departments would have a program, and others like art history, geography and biology,” Tansey said. “Those faculty have recognized the value of bringing students elsewhere and engaging them in learning that involves being there and interacting with people in other places.”

Many students choose to study something other than their major when abroad, either due to the lack of availability or interests.

 Kayla Hamann ’22, a math major, is currently abroad in Barcelona, Spain on the Spanish LSA. She said she strongly considered other programs but was not interested in studying math abroad.

 “The math department only has a domestic study program, and I wanted to study abroad to experience a new culture, get closer to my heritage and travel internationally for the first time ... [thus] a program in Tampa, FL was not particularly appealing,” Hamann said. “I’ve started applications to study abroad in both the Spanish and government departments — departments I’ve only dabbled in –– but haven’t even thought twice about the math program.”

Hamann also said that pursuing the math DSP would require extensive planning that wasn’t feasible, whereas for her LSA, the prerequisites only included taking language courses she would have had to take anyway as part of the foreign language requirement. 

“The [math] DSP is also only offered every other year, and there was no way for me to have completed all the prerequisites in time to participate in the program this winter — nor could I go senior winter due to the College’s residence requirements which would require me to be on,” Hamann said.  

Studying abroad can additionally present many challenges for students planning their courses of study and those wishing to utilize abroad credits upon their return to Dartmouth.

Michelle Yao ’20 is a math and economics double major who did an exchange term at Keble College at Oxford through the economics department and the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy.

 Yao applied to several programs through the economics department, which included exchange terms at University College London, Bocconi University and Oxford. She said she ultimately decided on Oxford because of its immersive nature. 

“There were only four of us, and we lived on campus separately in different dorm buildings,” Yao said. “Everything that was available to Oxford students was available to us. We got to participate in orientation week activities and I even joined the rowing team. I very much felt that I was an Oxford student for the entire term.”

As a study abroad institution, Dartmouth does a good job at handling the logistics of arranging exchange terms and integrating exchange students, said Andreas Hansen, an exchange student from the University of Copenhagen.

“Dartmouth was really helpful —they were always super quick to reply,” Hansen said. “Exchange students are looking to be part of the normal fabric of life here, and Dartmouth has been very welcoming.”

Yao said that the economics department also offers an exchange program in Budapest, but its curriculum does not align with her major concentration requirements. She also said that because you can only take two courses at Oxford, she has lost the ability to take a two-course term at Dartmouth, whereas she would have received four course credits at UCL or Bocconi. 

“I’ve had to stay on this track of taking three classes every term rather than having the flexibility to take an additional off-term or take two classes if I have a particularly heavy workload outside of school that term,” Yao said. 

Another option available to students is non-Dartmouth programs through the Dartmouth Registrar’s Office — referred to as a transfer term. On a transfer term, students often take courses at another university during an off-term. The process for applying for a transfer term involves providing an academic rationale which addresses how individual courses will offer intellectual opportunities not available at Dartmouth, applying for credits, and paying a fee of $2,200 unless the transfer term is taken during the fall, according to the Office of the Registrar. 

Arranging a transfer term often presents financial and logistical obstacles because they are not recognized as official off-campus programs at the College. 

For instance, Katie Shi ’21, who completed a transfer term at the University of Cambridge, said the process of transferring credits can appear to be complicated. Despite that, however, she said that she received administrative support from the College. 

“Everyone I reached out to — including my dean, the chairs of the Linguistics and English departments, and the registrars — was really supportive and understanding, especially with all of my questions," Shi said. 

However, Shi noted that the College could improve opportunities for students in the future. 

"I think it would be really nice if, in future years, Dartmouth could do a partner program with Cambridge, and not just an economics/government program with Oxford," Shi said. "I know that other American students who, because their home universities had made this specific program a partnership with Cambridge, had their tuition fees either partially or fully covered by their home universities."

The cost associated with off-campus programs is calculated by the Guarini Institute; however, for all Dartmouth-recognized programs, tuition stays the same. Most changes in price reflect differences in room and board, travel fees and meals. 

Hamann said she spent her summer saving money to cover the costs of her time in Barcelona, but was pleasantly surprised that she had overestimated the price of being abroad.

“I saved up for travels, flights and other associated increased costs,” Hamann said. “But I’ve felt like money has been less of a concern than I initially expected. My family was comforted by the fact that the price would be relatively the same as a normal term on-campus with the same aid.” 

However, Hamann added that she felt excluded from participating in a non-Dartmouth program since financial aid does not transfer for transfer terms. Aid for transfer terms is only available in the form of federal assistance and outside scholarships and excludes Dartmouth scholarship and loan assistance, according to the Office of the Registrar. 

Financial aid director Dino Koff said that his office works to make sure all students can go abroad without financial restraints. Currently, students who receive financial aid can expect an additional scholarship to cover half of the additional expenses associated with studying abroad and a loan is available for the remaining costs, Koff said.

However, one goal of Dartmouth’s ongoing “The Call to Lead” capital campaign is to allocate enough funds to the rest of that additional cost. Out of the campaign’s goal of $15 million, two-thirds has been raised so far, according to Koff. 

“We saw 59 more students last year go on off-campus programs who are on financial aid, which is really exciting,” Koff said. “The goal is to have it be the same exact price to study in London or South Africa as it is to study in Hanover and make sure that everybody that wants to do it has the opportunity to do so.” 

Katie Shi is a member of The Dartmouth staff.

Correction appended (Feb. 11, 2020): This article originally omitted a part of Katie Shi's experience studying abroad — specifically, in terms of the support she received from the College in arranging transfer credits. More context has been added to this section to better reflect Shi's experience.

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