Followup: Study Abroad Academics

After being called pretentious, elitist, petty, and ill-informed in the comments to my last post (“Academics in China”), I probably should clarify my sweeping generalizations about study abroad. If anything, I thank those anonymous commentators for keeping me in check.

The truth is, I am jealous because a lot of my friends say that they really did have a walk-in-the-park time at the academic portion of study abroad. I may not have a good sampling of friends but I haven’t met one that comes back and says, “wow, that really challenged me academically.” Culturally, sure. But academically, none so far. The comments from the last post prove their are folks that worked hard abroad but by-and-large, I’m still not quite convinced that the majority of study abroad academics is as challenging as it is back in the States. I’m not trying to toot my own horn but rather I’m trying to figure out what academics mean when studying abroad since this is an increasingly popular option for students across the United States.

If you look at some of the online chatter on sites like InsideHigherEd (“Study Abroad Under Scrutiny” – Aug 14, 2007 and “Quantity and Quality in Study Abroad” – May 8, 2007) and you see articles that say repeatedly that colleges are having a heck of a time trying to figure out what is going on at their branches abroad. Academic quality in particular is tough to control so some of these articles say. Even the New York Times wrote an article saying “schools including Harvard, Brown, Columbia, Fordham, Manhattanville, American and Northwestern may be sacrificing the academic caliber of their students’ study abroad experiences for less-expensive programs that offer kickback benefits to the schools.” I’m sure Middlebury is already doing a hell of a job especially at C.V. Starr schools. I may have pushed the blogospheric “hyperbole” button on the all-nighter comment, but overall, I hope this helps clarify where I’m coming from. It also may be that the School in China is easier than I think (since I’m in my second week of classes), but I’ll report back to you on that.

Please help me understand your study abroad experience and leave a comment, an anecdote, or your experiences. More comments!

(Sorry for the long wait on the comment queue, I was away this weekend getting sick eating seafood)