Study Abroad – Part I

20101006london0049Today’s frequently asked question is about study abroad.  There is a wonderful Center for Global Progams and Studies website, which allows students to search potential abroad options.  Deacs thinking about an abroad experience should go through this website in detail.  I want to touch briefly on two main subjects: WFU programs vs. affiliate programs, and timing of study abroad.  We’ll tackle the first today, the second tomorrow.

Wake Forest has several official WFU abroad programs (you’ll see a WFU next to the program names on their website), as well as affiliate programs, or relationships with other universities who will allow WFU students to apply to their programs.  Those affiliate programs have been vetted to be of commensurate quality academically and otherwise.

Families often ask if you should go with a WFU program or an affiliate program.  I can’t tell someone the answer to that.  I can only offer some considerations:

WFU program courses are counted into a student’s GPA, whereas affiliate courses give students credit hours but are not factored into a student’s GPA.  So if your student goes to an affiliate program and gets a 4.0 there, that will not help their GPA at Wake at all.

If you go on a WFU program, there is a WFU faculty member present and/or course syllabi are taught to WFU specifications, which means you can rely on having Wake Forest caliber professors and coursework.  You also know that you have the full resources of WFU behind you and that things will get done the Wake Forest way.  While all affiliate programs have been vetted for quality, University X may not do things in the same way Wake would.  That is neither good nor bad necessarily, just a consideration.

WFU programs will provide a cohort of other Wake students to share the experience with, and the bonds that abroad groups form can be lasting and important, both abroad and when you return.  If you go on an affiliate program, you will most likely be meeting new people, some of whom might have preexisting bonds.  For some students, meeting all new people would be great.  For others, they might prefer to have students they know.

Destination matters.  If you only want to go to [insert city] and there is no WFU program there, an affiliate might be the way to go.  But if you are open to many options within one country – say you want to go somewhere that speaks Spanish – you could choose between WFU or affiliate programs in Spanish-speaking countries.

So when your students are thinking about going abroad, there is a lot to consider.  The choice is ultimately theirs, but hopefully this will help inspire some reflection on what is important to them as they choose.

— by Betsy Chapman

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