The sad decline of study abroad

(Courtesy of Brian Schuh)

(Courtesy of Brian Schuh)

After studying abroad in London
last semester, I ask why any student
would not take the
tremendous opportunity
to experience a different culture.Living abroad, especially during the
terrorist attacks, gave me another
angle from which to view our nation’s
military response. One
Londoner approached me and
asked, “If your president
is truly interested
in eliminating all the terrorists, why
aren’t they dropping bombs over
the IRA terrorists in Northern Ireland?”
This man lost a relative in
an IRA blast in London several
years ago.

I will always remember the
moments like that, which left me
completely awestruck over a new
perspective. But I am concerned
that fewer and fewer of my peers
are taking up the extraordinary
opportunity to gain new insights
by studying abroad.

Guilford’s class of 2002 will
graduate with likely the lowest
participation so far in study
abroad. It is up to future classes
to keep this program alive and

Only a few years ago, there
were twice as many applications
for programs than there were
slots. Now, it seems we are happy
just to get enough people for a
program to happen.

Last year’s Munich program
The Theatre Studies Department of
Guilford College Presents
was a “no go,” apparently since
only four students applied. Last
semester’s Guadalajara program
had a grand total of four participants.

Why did this happen? The
small size of the junior class and
the absence of German professor
Dave Limburg to recruit for the
Munich program may be reasons,
according to Director of
Study Abroad Martha Cooley.

But is this all? And should
it be up to a faculty member to
spark interest?

What does this low participation
say to the administration
when crafting the future for
Study Abroad? If these numbers
do not rise, a once beloved institution
of this college could easily fade away.

Interest now in study
abroad is crucial. Due to
Guilford’s dire financial condition,
troops of “waste hunters”
are deployed all over the campus
to find programs to cut and they
may already be through the
front door of Worth House. These
troops might report back to
central command that
the low interest is a
justification to eliminate
Guilford’s programs
and send the few
who are interested
through other programs
at different schools.

For the first time, the London and
Munich semesters will
have “residential directors”
instead of a Guilford faculty leader.
Cooley says that financial
considerations are
not the only reason for
this change and that a
native residential director might
integrate students more into the
culture. However, the absence of
a Guilford faculty leader may deter
those who are nervous about
living abroad in the first place.

Feedback and interest in
these changes will show the administration
that they cannot
make any long-lasting decisions
without close scrutiny and inclusion
of the students. The classic
complaint about Guilford is that
important decisions are made
without the wider community involvement.

This awesome program, revered
by so many, deserves better
than this. If you never thought
about studying abroad before, ask
how it might be an important part
of your Guilford career. If you are
returning from abroad, actively
help the administration craft the
future of study abroad by sharing
your experience and ideas for
future programs.