Maryland college makes international study mandatory
Goucher College made it a graduation requirement. The University of Kansas proposed adding it to its curriculum. Schools around the country are not just offering students a study abroad experience; they are requiring it to graduate.
No plans, however, exist to bring mandatory study abroad to Syracuse University, said Sue Shane, director of programs at SU Abroad.
Each school at SU has an individual mission, which makes it difficult to form a university-wide mission for mandatory study abroad, Shane said.
‘I think what’s holding us back is we are such a diverse university with so many different programs that everyone has to buy in,’ she said.
This year, Goucher College, located in Baltimore, Md., became the first liberal arts college to start a mandatory study abroad experience, according to a Brown Daily Herald article. Each of the nearly 1,300 undergraduate students are required to spend at least three weeks studying abroad and are given a $1,200 voucher to cover part of the cost.
‘We believe international study has become an indispensable component of a comprehensive liberal arts curriculum,’ Goucher President Sanford Ungar said in a letter to the Goucher community in September of 2005. ‘That is why we are taking this step to establish it as a permanent and prominent aspect of own (curriculum).’
Some SU students said they feel that mandatory study abroad would not work at SU, even if it was only a three-week requirement.
‘I still don’t think it’s feasible,’ said Erin Tyrrell, a junior communications design major. ‘You can’t expect someone to go abroad against their will.’
Still, other schools are following Goucher’s lead.
In July, the University of Kansas proposed making study abroad mandatory for all students.
‘I think it’s a great aspirational goal to try and get all Kansas students abroad,’ said Susan Gronbeck-Tedesco, the director of study abroad at the U of K. ‘I’m also clear that not every student can go abroad.’
Gronbeck-Tedesco said she hopes to accommodate students who cannot afford study abroad by developing two different tracks to graduation within each major. One track would require students study abroad for credit and the other would allow them to remain on campus.
‘I think funding is the most significant factor that keeps students from going abroad,’ Gronbeck-Tedesco said.
Drury University, in Springfield, Mo., and San Diego State University already have mandatory study abroad requirements for specific majors, such as architecture, business and international studies, according to their Web sites.
SU administrators have discussed requiring study abroad for language majors, but other programs basically require it already, Shane said. Fifty percent of management students and 90 percent of architecture students study abroad.
SU currently sends 35 percent of its students abroad, she said. If studying abroad became mandatory, the abroad centers could not accommodate all SU students. The university would have to open many new exchanges and form new world partnerships.
A mandatory study abroad program at SU would also be a financial burden to many students, Shane said. At some schools, the extra cost of studying abroad is funded by endowments made to the study abroad program. No such endowments exist at SU, so students must pay the extra cost.
‘I don’t think that’s really fair,’ said Jamie Stransky, a junior history major. ‘What if someone can’t afford to do that?’
If an endowment was made to the study abroad program, mandatory study abroad may have a place at SU, Shane said.
‘I think if there was funding for students who need extra funding to do it, than it would pass in a heartbeat,’ she said.
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