Study abroad reviews released
How do Wellesley programs rank?
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 23:10
One of the nation’s largest study abroad review websites, StudyAbroad101.com, recently released its 2012 study abroad rankings. 70 students rated Wellesley’s overall study abroad offerings an average of 4.3 out of 5 stars.
The College’s very own Wellesley-in-Aix, France program was ranked number one in “Top Programs for Language-Lovers.” According to the website, the category reflects “how well students felt their program encouraged them to use the host country’s language.” French Professor Egron-Sparrow, who was the program director three times, reaffirmed this review, by citing the fact that students in the program must sign a contract to speak French during their entire stay.
Every year, 45 percent of Wellesley’s junior class travels the globe. Students choose from one of Wellesley’s six sponsored programs, nine exchange programs and over 150 pre-approved programs sponsored by other colleges and organizations, which can range from one semester to one year.
When asked where the most popular destinations were, Director of the Office of International Study (OIS) Jennifer Thomas-Starck replied, “One third of students who study abroad will study through a Wellesley-sponsored program in France, Spain, Italy, Germany or Mexico or through one of the smaller exchange programs. The greatest number of students who study abroad go to the UK, in particular London, Oxford, Cambridge and St. Andrews.”
The preference for English-speaking western countries is a relatively new pattern amongst Wellesley students, according to Thomas-Starck.
“It’s a recent trend,” she said. “Before, Wellesley had more students going to less traditional destinations, foreign language destinations and non-Western European nations, but I think the economy has impacted these decisions. While it is not cheaper to study in the UK, parents are looking at these name-brand UK institutions as a good investment. There has also been a rise in thematic study abroad programs such as the International Honors Program that observes cities, health care, cultural identity issues and other topics in different countries around the world.”
Students may choose to study abroad for language immersion or to pursue their major abroad. They may also travel to other countries to conduct research, to experience a different college environment, to live in a developing country, to challenge themselves or simply to have fun. Pursuing an internship abroad is another common endeavour.
These opportunities are available because of the unique financial support the College’s study abroad program provides for participants.
“The OIS takes pride in the strong institutional support for studying abroad at Wellesley, and the generous financial aid policy,” said Thomas-Starck.
Financial aid policy for studying abroad is adjusted to cover the cost of living in the country. StudyAbroad101.com reported that the top 10 budget-friendly countries were Mexico, Senegal, Peru, Kenya, China, Tanzania, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Ecuador, Thailand and Egypt, in order of least to most expensive. Studying abroad in low-budget destinations is a particular advantage for Wellesley students.
“It’s possible to receive more financial aid,” said Thomas-Starck, “which is practically unheard of at other institutions.”
Despite the advantages of Wellesley’s study abroad program, students who have gone abroad believe some aspects could have been different. Both Gabrielle Linnell ’13 and Zain Fanek ’13 expressed how difficult it was to build relationships with locals and natives.
“In any study abroad experience, you wish it was easier to meet natives,” Fanek, who studied abroad through the Wellesley-in-Aix Program, said. “[But] I don’t think the program should have the responsibility to do it. It just depends on your ability to go out and meet people.” In addition to the social and cultural immersion aspect, students believe academics was an area that needed improvement.
“I think they could have had recommended classes,” Anna Morton ’13, who studied abroad in South Africa with the CIEE Arts and Science Program at University of Cape Town, said. “Something we have at Wellesley is that fellow students recommend taking classes by the teacher, but that doesn’t happen over there as much.”
When further asked about the academics in her study abroad experience, Morton replied, “UCT is the best university in all of Africa, but sadly that’s not saying much. Depending on the classes you take and how much you put into them, you could learn a lot.”
It is difficult for Wellesley to provide academic support abroad because foreign institutions run differently from one another and from Wellesley College. This explains why academics, which is ranked 3 out of 5 stars, is the lowest rated aspect of the Wellesley study abroad program.
“Wellesley students are used to close faculty relationships, passionate professors and smaller class sizes,” Thomas-Starck confirmed. “When studying abroad, they attend larger lectures and aren’t given a lot of direction at other universities. Academically, students have to make a harder effort to get the most out of studying abroad amidst other distractions.”