One of the greatest privileges of higher education is the chance to study abroad. Vassar students can choose from over 100 programs across the globe based on their academic needs and aspirations. At the Study Abroad Fair last Friday, Sept. 16, representatives from several different Vassar-approved programs set up their color-coordinated brochures and informational flowcharts in the Villard Room, poised to answer student questions about studying away.
As the Study Abroad Fair highlighted, each individual program is special, with its own requirements, living accommodations and opportunities. The Boston University (BU) Study Abroad Program sends around 300 students a year to London for a half-coursework, half-internship semester. This system is meant to provide students with real work experiences that complement their respective academic interests, whether they be economics, film or politics. “Currently, our Psychology, Health and Human Sciences [program] is very popular,” said BU representative Debbie Miller. “Unfortunately, we have fewer internships than we’ve been able to place.”
Or, as representative Sarah Shalash explained, Vassar students can stay at the American University in Cairo (AUC). Students have access to all campus resources, like dorms, professors’ office hours, the cafeteria and the Olympic-sized pool at the on-campus gym. With liberal arts at its core, AUC is ideal for many majors—so long as the student has taken two years of Arabic at Vassar. “We’re fully U.S.-accredited—that’s the ‘American’ in our name—but 95 percent of our students are Egyptian, so as a study abroad option it’s kind of unique. You get to become an international student in our classes for a semester and sit side-by-side with your Egyptian peers,” Shalash said.
Other programs take on a specialized approach; the School for Field Studies (SFS), for example, is focused on environmental science. As Davin Foxall, SFS representative, put it: “Through field-based learning and 10 different research centers around the world, [we offer] anything from studying climate change in Patagonia to mountain ecology and Buddhism in Bhutan.” The field-based learning setup pushes students to get their hands dirty and experience their research outside of the classroom. “[SFS] educates the next generation of environmental leaders,” Foxall acknowledged.
The Sea Education Association (SEA) offers an unconventional, distinctive study abroad experience: Half of the semester is spent on a sailboat. “Every program, even our shorter summer programs, have two components: shore and sea,” said representative Kayla Sheehan. The shore is where students conduct the majority of their academic coursework, as well as learn how to sail. After designing an independent research project, students embark on the SEA ship. Sheehan continued, “You’re not just a student when you’re on the ship—you’re also a crew member and a scientist.” All students, regardless of their major, are expected to participate in the on-ship labs, while playing a critical role in getting their boat from point A to point B.
In the center of the Villard Room, among the fascinating study abroad programs, sat a couple of current exchange students, eager to speak about their experiences learning in a foreign country. Sachi Joo ’25, from Ochanomizu University in Tokyo, Japan, emphasized how studying abroad marries different ways of thinking. “It’s a really good change of environment,” she said.
A consistent stream of students, wide-eyed and enthusiastic, came through the Study Abroad Fair. The event was an overwhelming success, reiterating the point that studying abroad is an invaluable aspect of the liberal arts education, especially at Vassar. More information about Vassar’s available programs can be found on the International Programs website.