University News

Program offers jet-setters a comparative semester

Staff Writer
Monday, November 22, 2010

Many students spend a semester abroad integrating themselves into a single country. But participants in the International Honors Program, a popular study abroad option among Brown students, visit many places all related to a theme, investigating “how people in different countries create varied solutions to the common problems they face,” according to the program’s website.

The program offers three tracks. Of those, “Health and Community” draws the most Brown students.

Margeaux Berroth ‘11.5 and Shristi Pandey ’11 participated in the health track last semester. Their group of 33 students, six from Brown, went to Switzerland, India, China, South Africa and Washington.

Though “there is no typical day in IHP,” Berroth said, an average day began with class at 7 or 8 a.m. until around 10 in the morning, followed by a guest lecturer from the community and then a site visit in the afternoon to complement students’ background knowledge and reading.

At each location, students also stayed with a family, Berroth said. Students were “very immersed in the culture” through the families so they didn’t get a “superficial view” of the country, Pandey said.

Each country’s itinerary had a specific theme relating to global health, including how communism and globalization affect health and aging in China, AIDS/HIV and racial identity in South Africa and basic needs in India.

“The structure of the program is so encompassing,” Berroth said.

Another track of IHP is “Cities in the 21st Century,” which took students to Detroit, India, South Africa and Argentina this spring, and “explored the relationship between people and their built environment,” said participant Kim Nguyen ’11.

Nguyen was the only Brown student in her group. She had to petition to participate in the program because the Office of International Programs does not yet approve this track of IHP, she said.

Students explored different neighborhoods in Detroit, the state’s image in India and the politics of race in South Africa.

Nguyen said she found it interesting to be an American college student in such different environments. She also said she found it challenging to be objective while also connecting on a human level.

As an international relations concentrator, Nguyen said it was interesting to see the theories she had learned in class in practice in real life.

Berroth, Pandey and Nguyen agreed that there is no parallel program in study abroad options, adding that their interaction with their groups was an important characteristic of the program. Berroth and Pandey said they found some of their closest friends this way.

Additionally, all three mentioned the unique experience of having their professors travel with them throughout the semester. It created “a different level of interaction with them,” Pandey said.

The program was “rigorous in a way you would never expect,” Berroth said.

Ned Quigley, associate director of the OIP, wrote in an e-mail to The Herald that the type of student that would participate in IHP must be “willing to stretch themselves intellectually and personally.”

“The programs are academically rigorous and personally challenging,” Quigley wrote.

According to Quigley, IHP is a popular option for Brown undergraduates because students are generally “highly motivated, intellectually curious and willing to step out of their comfort zones. This is what attracted them to Brown and this is why many of them choose to study abroad.”

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