Schools allowing freshmen to study abroad

By Andrea Cheng

An increasing number of colleges are offering both first-year or first-semester study abroad programs for freshmen, according to a recent article published by Inside Higher Ed, an online news source.

However, the University is not one of them.

All students must be on campus at the University for at least two semesters before enrolling in a semesterlong abroad program, Erika Ryser, acting director of the Study Abroad Office, said. A student with a solid academic record and a high level of maturity who has lived abroad in the past would be able to petition to his or her dean to study abroad the first semester, she added.

“LAS freshmen cannot study their first semester abroad,” said Barbara Hancin-Bhatt, assistant dean and director of LAS International Programs. “Reasons for the policy were to ensure that we don’t send students abroad who are not prepared for it.”

It is unlikely for the University to plan a yearlong or semesterlong study abroad program for freshmen because the program would have to be completely aligned with the academic requirements within each department and college, Hancin-Bhatt said. Students may also be hesitant to study abroad because of potential major requirements and cultural adjustment issues, she added.

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

“I would love to see that happen, but that’s not on the agenda right now,” Hancin-Bhatt said. “It will help for students to bond and establish a global focus.”

Even though freshmen are not permitted to study a semester abroad their first year, they are able to study abroad during the winter or summer breaks.

This winter will be the first time the College of LAS will offer eight freshman discovery courses abroad in countries including Spain, South Africa, Brazil, Turkey and China. These discovery courses are geared toward freshmen exclusively, Ryser said.

This winter, the 5-year-old abroad initiative includes 75 freshmen out of 293 total students who are committed to studying abroad. Freshman students are participating in 10 different programs out of 16 available programs.

Gary Xu, associate professor of China studies, will be leading a winter course abroad to Nanjing, China. Because this program is a part of global studies, traveling to a different country is crucial to understanding globalization, he said.

Elise McCarren, freshman in LAS, said she is interested in studying abroad sometime in the future, but prefers to adjust to college life first.

“It would be a unique experience for me to meet new people, to be in a different place, and to see a different way of life,” McCarren said.

Ryser said she recommends students study abroad because it is becoming one of the components that employers are looking for.

“In terms of personal growth, you learn so much more about yourself when you go abroad,” Ryser said. “That kind of learning is difficult to replicate inside a culture you’re already familiar with.”