While many students choose to spend a semester eating baguettes in Paris or churros in Barcelona, others explore cities closer to home through Brown's Study Away in the USA option. In recent years, Philadelphia, New York and Boulder, Colo., have all played host to students looking for a different experience outside of Providence.
Ten to 15 people choose to study away each year, according to Associate Dean of the College Kathleen McSharry. While she said that most students study away for personal or logistical reasons, the students themselves attribute their decision to a wide range of factors.
Jason Gorelick '12, a computer science and electronic music and multimedia concentrator, spent the fall semester at Columbia to play music with his band. In previous semesters, he said he spent his weekends traveling between Providence and New York, where the other two members of his band live. Taking a semester to study at Columbia allowed him to fulfill computer science requirements while also devoting time to his music.
He said that although he enjoyed his time at Columbia, it helped him realize that he did not want to pursue a full-time career in music just yet. New York was "a really good life for me, and now I'm back," he said.
Other students said they chose to study away for academic reasons. Kelly Schryver '11, an American civilization concentrator, spent the 2010 spring semester at Penn. She took courses on adolescents and the media at the Annenberg School of Communication and the Graduate School of Education. The Penn courses were "perfect for my concentration," she said. She wrote a final paper about the effect of Facebook on teenage girls that inspired her senior thesis at Brown, she added.
Schryver also took a course called "The Big Picture: Mural Arts," which gave her hands-on experience with the Philadelphia community. As part of the course, students visited a maximum security prison where prisoners make murals for the outside community. The experience was "probably the highlight of my time at Penn," she said.
Alexandra Feldman '11 decided to take advantage of the University of Colorado at Boulder's strong engineering program in the spring of 2009. As a Colorado native, she said she had "always grown up in the shadow" of the school. She had arrived at Brown as an engineering major, but said she "didn't really take to it." Boulder's College of Engineering has "cool disciplines, like aerospace engineering," she explained, and she said she was curious to see what it was like. But she said she did not see this as a move towards transferring.
Feldman said she appreciated her time away from Brown, and said that she was "so ready" after her semester away to come back and take full advantage of the opportunities Brown offers. She also said she came to the realization at Boulder that she preferred computer science to engineering.
McSharry attributed the relatively low number of students that study away to the fact that, once they arrive at Brown "they're really happy, or at least that's what they tell the Princeton Review."
McSharry explained that transferring credits to Brown is a complex process, involving two or three levels of approval. A student's institution and course choice must be approved by McSharry's office and possibly by the student's concentration adviser. The relationship between Brown's course credits and other institutions' credit hours can also "bollock students up." She said that although the "vast majority" of students manage to get credit, the process can be frustrating, and urged students considering study away to "monitor their assumptions" that credits would transfer.
Gorelick and Schryver both said they had difficulties transferring credits. Only three of Schryver's four courses counted at Brown, which she described as "kind of a surprise." Gorelick said that he was "not sure what will happen" with his credits, because he had not yet submitted his transcript from Columbia. "Frankly, I'm not sure if all of them are going to count," he said.