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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Studying’ on the slopes: Domestic exchange bad for students

    If you’re worried about having to learn Spanish for a foreign exchange trip, here’s some cause for relief: You don’t even have to cross the Atlantic to study abroad anymore.

    According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, “”domestic study abroad programs,”” in which students leave their college to study at another U.S. institution, are becoming increasingly popular among students.

    Implicit in the report is the fact that many students are wary of studying abroad in other countries, but the fact of the matter is that domestic study abroad programs hurt our ability to compete in a globalized world.

    Granted, traditional study abroad programs have been booming over the last decade. According to the Institute of International Education, a record 206,000 students studied abroad during the 2004-05 school year, the first time the number topped 200,000.

    Even so, students don’t seem to be staying for very long; about 51 percent elected to stay abroad less than eight weeks, while only 6 percent stayed for the entire academic year. Moreover, the most popular destination is Britain, which doesn’t exactly require students to immerse themselves in a foreign language.

    The principal purpose of studying abroad is to become familiar with different cultures, customs and languages. And, as the 6,000-plus students who studied in China must know, studying in a country that promises to be a big player on the global scene imbues students with the kind of skills that will soon be in high demand.

    All of this makes the popularity of domestic study abroad programs rather troubling, even if the temptation to stay in the U.S. is understandable. What self-respecting college student wouldn’t want to study at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, which offers no school on Fridays, season passes to two ski resorts and the opportunity to attend the Sundance Film Festival?

    Well, four months on the slopes might make for a fun semester, but consider this: The world of the future will be connected, communications will be global and business will be international. For those keeping score, none of this seems particularly related to cutting through some wicked powder in Utah.

    Domestic exchange programs aren’t necessarily cheaper. Boston University student Tom Powers told the Journal that his mom had to take out a $6,000 loan to finance his “”study abroad”” trip to Los Angeles. More often, in fact, it seems to be about taking the easy way out. Alex Mulvace, a student from Venice Beach, simply called his domestic exchange “”a vacation.””

    But college isn’t about taking a “”vacation””; it’s about exploring new ideas and, hopefully, preparing for a globalized world, neither of which seem to be addressed by domestic exchange programs.

    Students should take that extra step and travel to Europe or China or India. It might not be a vacation, but it just might become a vocation.

    Opinions Board
    Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Justyn Dillingham, Allison Hornick, Damion LeeNatali, Stan Molever, Nicole Santa Cruz and Matt Stone.

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