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    Editorial: Study abroad policies need flexibility

    Issue date: 4/17/09 Section: Opinion
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    While it's safe to say that students should expect some hassles given everything that goes into the preparation for a study abroad experience, it would also be right to say that the experience shouldn't be one they end up regretting. Unfortunately, the current system under which students are permitted to study abroad at Case Western Reserve University puts both students and their advisers at risk for too many headaches and frustrations, both before and after the actual experience.

    The main study abroad program at Case, known as Junior Year Abroad (JYA), requires students to research and select a potential program to which they will apply. Typically, these programs are run by different universities that may or may not be the actual institution at which a student ends up studying. Both a dean and the student's adviser must approve the specific program and the exact courses a student will take in order to ensure credit will transfer to Case. The problem here is that the burden rests upon students and advisers, without much assistance from Undergraduate Studies, to approach departments and request approval for individual classes-a tedious exercise with broader courses, which may seem to fit under several departments.

    Case has a language requirement for JYA in non-English speaking countries: two years of instruction at the college level. Most of the time, this is probably a good thing. However, there are some programs abroad that are focused on providing instruction in the native language while also incorporating classes in English. Other times, students may already have familiarity with a particular language. Neither of these cases allow for exceptions to the language requirement.

    Ironically, it is difficult to have classes taken while abroad used to fulfill the SAGES global/cultural diversity requirement. If taken at CWRU, a class titled "Cultures of the United States" can fulfill this requirement. A class taken at a Danish university called "Cross-cultural Psychology" does not. A dean explained to a student that classes satisfying this requirement are "non-white, non-European." We find this hair-splitting to be counterproductive; students who study abroad should be considered to have fulfilled such a requirement.

    Additionally, a Case program like Integrated Graduate Studies, in which students can begin pursuing a master's degree in their senior year, eliminates the possibility of participating in JYA, since students are required to have the last 60 credit hours before beginning graduate work completed in residence at CWRU.

    Some good might come out of adding more study abroad-focused advisers or student staff (like at the Career Center) to the study abroad office, or revisiting existing policies and making them more user-friendly. Until then, it seems that some hassles and frustrations are likely to mar an otherwise valuable experience.
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