Notes from the Director
First of all, welcome to our new website! It’s the product of many hours of hard work and collaboration, and I’m extremely grateful to the Northwestern Office of Web Communications and to our entire Study Abroad Office staff for their creativity and hard work in crafting a brand new website that is both informative and user-friendly.
When the Study Abroad Office opened in 1997 approximately 100 students studied abroad each year on one of 11 affiliated programs. Now around 750 students study abroad annually on one of 122 affiliated programs—40 of them designed and administered by faculty and staff at Northwestern. We’ve come a long way!
But as impressive as this growth has been, the fact is that study abroad participation at Northwestern still hovers around 33% of each graduating class. Even if we include the approximately 120 students who engaged in some form of non-credit work or study abroad, we know there are at least as many other students who either never considered study abroad or who simply accepted the “myths” of study abroad and just assumed that it’s either too expensive, impossible to get credit for their work abroad and graduate on time, too dangerous, or that study abroad has no practical application to their long-range professional goals.
We know that study abroad isn’t for everyone, but our hope is that every student will at least explore their study abroad options with an adviser in our office before making any assumptions.
So I have a challenge, and I’m going to direct it to every student, but particularly to those students who are less represented in the statistics I’ve cited above. I challenge first-generation students, students of color, student athletes, students in the sciences, technology, engineering and math, music students, and even the men of Northwestern! (Did you know that nationwide as at Northwestern, women out-number men in study abroad 2:1?)
My challenge is simple. I challenge you to find someone who studied abroad—whether it’s a senior who studied abroad, a professor, someone studying abroad right now, or someone who’s about to leave campus for study abroad. And ask them how they did it; let them debunk the myths about study abroad. What you’ll find is that the first thing almost everyone will tell you is that they can’t wait to go back, or wish that they’d stayed longer.
So ask yourself this—why not you, too? What are you waiting for? Northwestern is willing to grant up to a full year of credit for study abroad—25% of your coursework toward graduation—for comparable academic work abroad for one simple reason: we, as educators, see real value in study abroad, not just in the lecture halls of Berlin or the tutorials at Oxford, but in the rich and varied cultural experiences that you will have as you navigate daily life outside the United States. (For an analogy, I recommend that you read Plato’s “Cave Allegory,” and visualize yourself like the person who leaves the cave’s darkness and finds outside another dimension of reality.)
I challenge you to become a member of what the Johns Hopkins professor Hugh Kenner called “The Elsewhere Community”—that intrepid group of curious minds who have ventured off the well-trodden path to explore our world and see it first-hand, to learn a new language, decipher the subtleties of daily life in a new place and, if you take your time, to make some life-long friends.
How should you start?
- Ask a study abroad returnee why they think you should study abroad and how they did it; then
- Make an appointment with an adviser in the Study Abroad Office; and finally,
- If you don’t have one, get a passport!
Well, what are you waiting for?
Director of the Northwestern Study Abroad Office