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Editorial: The merits of study abroad

During our time on College Hill, most students will inevitably ponder the option of studying for a semester in a foreign country. Unfortunately, of those who consider this extraordinary possibility, only a small fraction end up embarking on this scary yet academically and personally enriching experience. Only 398 students studied abroad last year. This could be for one of many reasons. Some students feel as though they would be missing out on Brown traditions such as Spring Weekend and Campus Dance if they were to spend a semester elsewhere. Other students have academic or financial reasons to stay on campus. But exploring the academic world beyond the walls of Brown and even the United States is an experience that every student should have the opportunity to enjoy.

Spring Weekend is a Brown tradition all students will have the chance to experience. But what about getting to go to Oktoberfest in Munich or the Christmas market in Edinburgh? These international activities provide novel experiences and new memories that add an additional dimension to an individual’s personal college experiences. Exposure to the trademark festivals of a foreign country allows students to actively engage in and interact with different cultures and people. For a semester, this could provide — dare anyone admit it — a more valuable, enriching opportunity than staying in Providence simply to experience the same Brown traditions once again.

Academics at Brown are a more compelling, and likely more common, reason not to study abroad. Students who switch concentrations or pursue one with extensive requirements may have too many requirements to fulfill, making a trip abroad logistically difficult or impossible for them. For these students, Brown should make sure that concentration advisors talk to students as early as possible about study abroad opportunities and the steps one must take in order to make sure that studying abroad is feasible.

Additionally, Brown should consider providing increased financial support for students who choose to go abroad. While students who go abroad receive their full financial aid package when doing so, that financial aid does not necessarily cover all the costs of travel. Fully immersing oneself in a foreign environment and taking complete advantage of being abroad can be costly, and the University should work to ensure that everyone who wants to have the opportunity to study abroad can. Studying abroad can also have opportunity costs if students who typically work are no longer able to do so because they are abroad on student visas.

Brown offers a plethora of experiences that provide personal and academic development for all of its students. Yet even with all of these opportunities on campus, it is difficult to replicate the beauty and cultural immersion that can be experienced in countries like Germany, Spain, Scotland, Chile or China. While classes may be less rigorous in many instances than those at Brown, most of the learning while studying abroad takes place outside the classroom — an idea that may be new and exciting to students. The independence needed to live, work and make friends in such a different environment allows for personal growth that Providence cannot provide. Brown should make studying abroad an easier, even more appealing option for students.

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Manuel Contreras ’16 and Meghan Holloway ’16, and its members, Emma Axelrod ’18, Noah Fitzgerel ’17 and Aranshi Kumar ’17. Send comments to


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