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Study Abroad Difficulties

Off-campus study programs are exciting and worthwhile for many reasons. They can and should be an integral part of the college experience. But here at Lawrence, there are some inherent difficulties in the process.
First of all, it is quite common for students to spend thousands of dollars more during a term abroad than they would on the Lawrence campus. While need-based financial aid may be applied to study abroad expenses, university policy does not allow the use of merit-based aid while abroad.
The quality of off-campus educational programs is also questionable. Most often, studying abroad means studying through an outside institution, and often the education provided to international students through those institutions does not measure up to what we are used to at Lawrence. Add this to the fact that many Lawrence students pay exorbitantly more money for the educational experiences they receive while abroad, and the situation begins to look quite problematic.
These issues are especially shocking in light of Lawrence’s enthusiastic advocacy of the study abroad experience. According to our course catalog, “Off-campus study provides an invaluable opportunity to hone and extend the intellectual skills and capacity for civic and political engagement associated with a Lawrence liberal arts education by placing students in educational settings that purposefully combine classroom and experiential learning.” Not only does this statement identify off-campus study as an opportunity to enhance our education, it draws a particular connection to the Lawrence experience. In the case of such majors as foreign languages or linguistics, study abroad is considered highly relevant, but it is a common interest and endeavor of Lawrence students of all disciplines.
There is no question as to the high interest level of Lawrence students in studying abroad, and many have positive experiences with it. But the administration should do all it can to support such programs, instead of limiting their availability to students. Though it is common for students to study abroad for a term or so, yearlong off-campus programs are, on the whole, not made accessible to students. The administration should not pretend to offer stronger off-campus programs than it does. We would like to see our university’s study abroad offerings live up to the standards they set for themselves.