Perhaps your college student would like the opportunity to get away from their campus and broaden their experiences. But perhaps your student doesn’t feel ready or can’t afford to study abroad. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no opportunity to have the experience of expanding their academic, cultural, and personal experiences. Many colleges formally offer a “study away” experience which can include opportunities to spend a few weeks, a semester, or even a full academic year in another setting.
There are many advantages to exchange, abroad, or away programs. Your student may learn more about diversity and multicultural issues, will learn to live more effectively with differences, will have experiences that may broaden their mind and help them learn more about new behaviors and ways of living. Your student will experience a welcome break from their own campus and routine; will have new opportunities for networking, friendships, and experiences. Costs for domestic study away opportunities may be less than a study abroad program.
Your student may have an opportunity to expand their options by taking courses or participating in programs not available at their home institution. They will be able to study with new professors, including, possibly, leaders in their chosen field. If your student is a commuter or is attending school close to home, they will have an opportunity to increase their independence and resourcefulness, and their resume will demonstrate to a future employer that they have sought out new challenges. If your student is considering graduate school, this may be an ideal opportunity to get to know a potential institution better. Your student might even use the experience as an opportunity to seek employment in a new location.
Study Abroad programs have been in existence for many years, but have gained in prominence since the University of Delaware instituted a more formal program in 1923. Study Away, or Domestic Exchange programs are a more recent phenomenon. Most students participate during their junior year of college. The variety of possible experiences is endless. In addition to simply taking classes at another institution, students may study jazz in New Orleans, study art in New York City, learn about entertainment law in Los Angeles, participate in government in Washington DC. Students may take classes or participate in internships; work and travel with a group or individually.
There are many variations of the study away experience and some colleges may be more or less proactive in helping students find experiences. The Twelve College Exchange is one example of an existing program. Any student studying at Amherst, Bowdoin, Connecticut College, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Trinity, Vassar, Wesleyan, Wheaton, Dartmouth, or Williams may apply to participate in the program to study at any other member institution.
Other nationally recognized programs include the National Student Exchange (NSE), which has 180 member institutions and has been in existence since 1968. The program places approximately 3500 students per year. Local programs also exist and include programs such as the New York Arts Program (established in 1967), the Chicago Center for Urban Life and Culture (established in 1970), and American University’s Washington Semester program.
If your college student would like to have an extended off-campus opportunity but does not want to study abroad, talk to them about a possible domestic exchange program. Your student may be able to get more information from their college’s Study Abroad office. For many students, for a variety of reasons, this alternative is the right choice.