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Dartmouth Tops Ivies for Study Abroad

In a report by the Institute of International Education (IIE), which tracks the figures in its annual “Open Doors” report, Dartmouth ranks third in the nation among doctoral degree granting institutions in undergraduate study abroad participation, with a participation rate of 60.9 percent. That ranking is up seven spots from the 2006 report. Of other Ivy League schools, only the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Harvard made the list, with participation rates of 34.2 percent, 30.8 percent, and 28.7 percent, ranking 28th, 34th, and 40th respectively.

Milford Sound
Sarah Stern ’08 (left) and Caleb Ballou ’08 explored Milford Sound during Dartmouth’s New Zealand Foreign Study Program in the winter of 2007.  Based at the University of Auckland, the program is offered jointly by the Department of Anthropology and the Program in Linguistics and Cognitive Science. (Photo by Andrew Klein ’08)

“Dartmouth is unique among our peers, not only because of our extremely high participation rates and the length, depth, and variety of our offerings, but also because our extensive programs have been in operation for 50 years,” says Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Carol Folt, who is also the Dartmouth Professor of Biological Sciences. “Moreover, while most of our 48 programs include living with families or studying with students and faculty from other countries, all are led by Dartmouth faculty, which is unusual. This ensures the academic quality of study abroad remains as high as our on-campus offerings.” Most schools use third-party providers of study abroad programs for their students, explains Folt.

According to the IIE report, the number of U.S. students studying abroad is on the rise, with an 8.5 percent increase over 2006. Although Western Europe remains the most popular destination for American students, the number of students traveling to Asia and South America has grown significantly. The numbers at Dartmouth mirror this overall trend, says Lindsay Whaley, associate dean of the faculty for international and interdisciplinary studies and professor of classics and linguistics, who notes that all of Dartmouth’s recent and soon-to-be developed off-campus programs are located in non-European countries.

A number of factors account for Dartmouth’s high rate of participation, says Whaley. “Primarily, it’s because study abroad is so embedded in the culture of the place,” he says. “Dartmouth has been committed to international study and service abroad since World War II. Many students choose Dartmouth specifically to participate in study abroad, and even those who don’t come for that reason realize once they get here that it’s the thing to do.”

Dartmouth’s year-round, four-term school year makes study abroad a very attractive choice for Dartmouth students as well. The quarter system and the Dartmouth D-Plan (which provides for one term away from campus during the sophomore and junior years), allows students the opportunity to do significant off-campus study without spending half a year—one-eighth of their college career—off campus. More terms also give students the option to do two study abroad programs, an option that many Dartmouth students choose, says Whaley, often using D-plan flexibility to pair their off-campus study with an additional term of service and travel abroad.

“Dartmouth faculty are deeply committed to these programs. They take great pleasure in personal contact enabled by programs and the incredible growth that they see in their students over the course of the term,” says Folt. “And you can imagine that working for a term in the great cities, museums, theaters of the world, in tropical rainforests of Central America, in the parks of Tanzania and elsewhere is stimulating to faculty as well as students.” 

Dartmouth, home of the Dickey Center for International Understanding, has a long tradition of promoting cross-cultural exchange, and Whaley says that above all, this is what Dartmouth students take from time studying abroad.

“They learn an awareness of what it means to be a foreigner, and that the world is a big place and there are lots of different perspectives on things.” Whaley adds that students also benefit from developing and refining skills—languages for example, but also cross-cultural communication, and the ability to navigate cultural boundaries. “And of course,” he says, “they’re taking good classes and learning a lot about a particular subject matter, and they’re getting fieldwork experience they can’t get anywhere else.”

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 12/17/08