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More Than Tourists

A national leader in international programs, Tufts is bucking many of the trends that now define college study abroad trips.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [11.19.02] Don't confuse Tufts' Programs-Abroad Director Sheila Bayne with a travel agent. When students arrive in her office to make their study abroad arrangements, Bayne makes sure they get more than just a sight-seeing trip. Bucking national trends - which indicate that study abroad programs are increasingly short and less intensive - Tufts students are staying longer and working harder than ever while pursuing their international studies.

› International Study: Now More Than Ever [ read ]

"If a student just wants a good travel experience, we can introduce them to a good travel agent," Tufts' David Cuttino, dean of undergraduate admissions, enrollment and external affairs, told the Chronicle of Higher Education. "The focus of study abroad is ‘study' - this should be a serious academic experience."

That was the case for David Roy, an English and biology student at Tufts. He used his study abroad trip to Nepal to conduct a month-long independent research project on Tibetan youth in exile in northern India.

"I learned so much, and worked just as hard, if not harder, as I have worked at Tufts," Roy told the Chronicle, adding that he is using his experiences to write a travel memoir for his senior thesis in English.

"It was absolutely amazing," he told the newspaper. "We went places where they had never seen white people before. I saw the Himalayas. I practiced Tibetan Buddhism."

Many Tufts students share similar experiences.

"I feel fluent in Spanish now," Tufts senior Stephanie Lombard, who spent a year in the Tufts-In-Chile program, said in an interview with the widely-read higher education publication. "And it wasn't just academics. You learn about a culture, which is more important in the long run."

With hundreds of students studying outside the United States every year, Tufts is among the national leaders for study abroad programs.

"Tufts starts with a strong international base," reported the Chronicle. "Nearly 30 percent of its enrolled undergraduates have already lived abroad at some point. The international relations major is among the university's most popular, and more than 40 percent of undergraduates study abroad during their four years at Tufts, ranking it 10th among the top 20 research institutions for study abroad participation."

An international focus in closely intertwined with the University's fabric.

"Tufts has a strong commitment to educating global citizens," Todd M. Davis - director of the Institute of International Education - told the Chronicle. "Globalization is infused through all the activities of the institution - it's not just the responsibility of the study-abroad office or the international student office."

Beginning with their first day on campus, students are introduced to their opportunities to broaden their perspective.

"A world atlas is [traditionally] included in the [freshman] orientation packets they find on their beds - a not-so-subtle nudge to think about studying somewhere beyond the Medford/Somerville, campus," reported the Chronicle.

Many take the hint.

Tufts students participate in more than 230 programs in hundreds of locations around the world. And now, more than ever, Tufts students are interested in studying in less traditional locations.

"When Sheila Bayne, director of the study abroad office, arrived at Tufts in 1989, the institution ran only five programs abroad, all in Western European cities: London, Oxford, Madrid, Paris, and Tubingen," reported the Chronicle. "Since 1995, programs have also been established in Chile, China, Ghana, Hong Kong and Japan."

Tufts also approves hundreds of other study abroad programs - run through institutions around the world - which extend students' choices from Tibet to Australia to the Middle East.

At one point, Tufts had students studying on every continent - including Antarctica.

"The students wanted more options," Bayne told the newspaper. "We were bringing in faculty experts in non-Western disciplines. It was time for a change."

Tufts' programs have expanded, but their academic rigor remains just as challenging.

"Most students applying for one of Tufts' study abroad programs have to meet a language requirement: six semesters of French or Spanish for the programs in Paris, Madrid, and Chile, or four semesters of German or Chinese for the programs in Tubingen and Hangzhou," reported the Chronicle.

And when students arrive, their adopted professors maximize their academic experiences.

"I wrote 12 to 15 big papers, which is more than I do at Tufts, and still had to take enormous exams in the spring for classes that I had completed in December," Jessamy Garver-Affeldt - who studied at the Tufts-In-London program last year - told the Chronicle.

That's exactly what Cuttino wants students to experience while studying abroad.

"The cultural experience is important - it's good to gain another perspective, experience a different educational style," he said. "But the rigor of the program is the most important. How do we develop better analytical skills, the ability to think independently, different communications skills? These are the questions we focus on throughout the Tufts educational experience. Interesting travel is not what we're talking about."



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