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The Dartmouth
February 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Spotlight on Dartmouth Domestic Study Programs

One writer spotlights how Dartmouth Domestic Study Programs operate and why students choose to go on them.

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While many Dartmouth students dream of using Dartmouth’s off-campus programs to study abroad in places like Paris, Taipei or Buenos Aires, another option exists to study away from Hanover: Domestic Study Programs. Even if the street signs are still in English, and the cars drive on the same side of the road, these U.S.-based programs can offer students a rich cultural and academic experience outside of the Dartmouth bubble. 

Dartmouth students who choose to go on DSPs enjoy a new sense of independence and greater insight into their career aspirations. Two DSPs are currently available: film in Los Angeles in the winter and government in Washington, D.C. in the spring. In the past, Dartmouth has historically run programs in Native American and Indigenous Studies in New Mexico, Environmental Sciences in New England and Mathematical Oncology in Tampa, Florida, according to the Dartmouth College Fact Book. 

“It’s a mix of faculty and student interest,” executive director of the Guarini Institute John Tansey said, explaining why off-campus programs are started or discontinued.

Before this past year, DSPs had been growing, both in the number of programs offered and student participation. In 2022, there were five DSP programs and 59 participants, a significant increase from three programs and 34 participants in 2020. Statistics for 2023 have not been released yet.

Government professor Lisa Baldez has run the D.C. program four times. She commented on the experiential political learning aspect of the program. 

“Most of the students are government majors taking courses in American politics and foreign policy, and then you go and you work on The Hill,” Baldez said. “And so you really learn to make connections between abstract, theoretical thinking about political decision making, and how it works on the ground.”

While they don’t have the same opportunity to travel internationally provided by Foreign Study Programs, DSP students are never at a loss for things to do on their programs — the L.A. and D.C. DSPs both consist of two classes and an independent study that consists of an internship and written reflections. Students also have the chance to go on weekly excursions to explore their city and industry. 

Faisal Azizi ’24, a Government and Middle Eastern Studies major from Afghanistan, went on the D.C. DSP last spring and shared his experience. 

“We went to the Department of Treasury, the Department of Defense … that was amazing,” Azizi said. “The Pentagon tour was rewarding, too. We visited the site where the plane crashed during 9/11, and it reminded me of the war back home and how one incident changed everything for everyone — it was very personal.”

As an international student, Azizi was also accepted into the Government FSP in London but couldn’t travel due to his visa status. For international students in similar situations, DSPs can be an attractive way to get an off-campus learning experience. 

During his time at D.C., Azizi interned at a political consultancy firm. He also met Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., which served as the “catalyst” for his next internship with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

“The first thing I learned is that you don’t need a hierarchy [in the office],” Azizi said. “The second thing is that democracy really exists. I can’t say this for every Senator, but working with Senator Shaheen, every voice was heard. That is where I saw the beauty of democracy, from the people, for the people, and by the people.”

Carson Goh ’25, another student on the D.C. program who interned at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, took the mission of enjoying the city into his own hands.

“One time, I woke up at 3 a.m. to watch a Supreme Court case in person,” he said. “They only allow 60 people, so it’s very hard to get in … You feel the weight of all the decisions that the justices make when you’re there. You don’t realize the difficulty of the issues that they’re dealing with until you see these amazing lawyers asking all of these questions.”

On the L.A. DSP last year, students met influential leaders in the film industry. Students talked with the Vice President of the Golden Globes organization, Tim Gray. By chance, they also met Chris and Patrick Vörös, better known as the Da Vinki Twins from TikTok, outside a movie screening and approached them on the street. 

For some students, like Natalie Halsey ’25, participating in a DSP and having the opportunities for those connections has been a desire of theirs since applying to Dartmouth. 

“I applied to Dartmouth with going on this DSP in mind … I was able to get my dream internship with my dream company. So being at this internship was like, ‘wow, this is what I really want to do,’” Halsey said, a film major who is currently interning at Lord Miller Productions.

For others, like Goh, the decision to partake in a DSP came later in their Dartmouth career. 

“I wanted to study outside of Hanover but there weren’t a lot of programs that aligned with my interest in American politics,” said Goh.” So I thought I’d like to go experience the bustling hub where all the government’s decisions are made, and experience life in a city.”

Some students even resorted to a DSP as a back-up plan. Robbie Abel ’24, a film modified with theater major, knew he wanted to do a study away program when he came to Dartmouth. He ended up going on the L.A. DSP after not getting into two FSPs that he had previously applied to.

“I was a little disappointed because I was looking forward to going to a different country, having to adjust, and seeing a part of the world I’ve never seen before,” he said. “But I’ve never been to Los Angeles before. And while it isn’t a completely different culture, it is still different enough and definitely an off-campus program.” 

Students also benefited from the support of Dartmouth’s financial aid.

“I think that going to L.A. for three months is not something that would be in my wheelhouse if I didn’t do it through Dartmouth. So I really appreciate the opportunity to travel and to get to know the film industry without breaking my bank,” Abel said. 

Abel is currently interning at American Cinematheque, a nonprofit that focuses on connecting the public with film history. 

Halsey, who also went on the French FSP in Paris in the winter of 2023, compared her study away experiences. 

“In France, I was living with a host family, speaking French all the time, and spending a lot more time with my cohort,” Halsey said. “L.A. feels a lot more like professional growth … It’s different, but I think both are valuable.”

But students seem to find la vie en rose in the US, as well.

“In my head, I’m like, ‘Oh, they should take us to France.’ Part of me really wishes that I got to do a program that took me somewhere completely different,” Abel said. “But now that I’m here, I have no regrets.”