Despite rumors to the contrary, The Off-Campus Studies (OCS) Office decided to maintain their policy governing first-year students studying abroad. Though freshmen will not be able to apply outright for off-campus opportunities, students will be able to petition the office to travel.
The decision to allow for this contingency came in part after two freshmen studied abroad last year, but also in part to allow more flexibility to students who might not otherwise get the chance to spend time off-campus.
During the summer of 2011, OCS surveyed the graduating class for feedback about their off-campus study experiences and how it tied into their studies at Carleton. Some of the questions they included focused on non-participation in study abroad programs.
“From these answers we found that one of the most common reasons was exactly the tightness of the schedule of the curriculum. For some students it was just very difficult to find the appropriate time,” said Helena Kaufman, the Director of Off-Campus Studies.
She noted that athletes and science majors were disproportionately affected. “We are slightly underrepresented, in terms of participation in study abroad, by athletes and science students, so if we can help them -- if that fits better into their curriculum and it is an appropriate program for them -- then we want to make that option possible.” She added.
“As a physics major, there aren’t really any times that you can go abroad and not be super behind on everything, ever,” said Leah Crane ’15.
Carleton encourages students to study abroad at some point during their four years. 73% of the class of 2012 had gone on some off-campus study program. Approximately 50% of the students that participate in an off-campus program will do so during their junior year. The other 50% of students are evenly split between going during their sophomore and senior years.
The most recent freshmen to go abroad, Crane and Will Sheffer ‘15, went on the Theater and English program in London last year after the trip nearly fell through because too few students had applied. Each thought the trip had given them important experience on living outside college housing, and upon their return, made them appreciate Carleton more.
“I think it really put things into perspective for me, because I wasn’t spending a year at Carleton, I had to figure out what I wanted to do with myself sophomore year,” said Sheffer. “And I think it also helped me by making me realize how great of a place Carleton really is and how much I missed it while I was abroad.”
Similarly, Crane said she had connected with faculty members that had helped her through the process of applying and that it really improved her “overall impression of Carleton.”
Although both students enjoyed the experience, Kaufman listed a variety of reasons why going abroad so early may hinder a student’s success at Carleton.
“I think you really need this first year to figure things out; to figure what college is all about, to figure what you’re all about, what you want to do. I think it just helps you choose [classes] better,” she said.
What Sheffer thought was one of the greatest disadvantages of studying abroad early was that he lost the ability to explore the curriculum. “Because I wasn’t taking classes at Carleton, I will never be able to take a geology class or religion class with the potential of majoring in that subject,” he said. “I think it really limits your choices in experiencing all of the class diversity that Carleton has to offer.”
However, Crane and Sheffer left with positive experiences from their off-campus studies and both intend to study abroad again during their time at Carleton.
Currently, OCS has one petition from a freshman to participate in an off-campus program. For now, they will continue to allow petitions and make exceptions on a case-to-case basis.