EDITORIAL: Reduce ambiguities surrounding study abroad
According to the Office of Study Abroad website, Brandeis University offers over 200 different programs in about 60 countries, allowing students to customize their experience. However, there are often logistical issues associated with gaining course credit from classes taken abroad, which may dissuade students from taking advantage of these opportunities. This board urges the OSA to address these issues.
Abroad programs are reviewed and approved by Brandeis faculty “to ensure that students are able to receive major/minor credit for the courses that they take overseas,” Associate Dean of Study Abroad J. Scott Van Der Meid explained in an email to the Justice. However, the Justice spoke to multiple students who have been or are currently studying abroad who explained that, while the courses they picked were screened and counted as general credits, it was up to the professors in each department to decide whether courses taken abroad count for the specific requirements of each major, which was not always guaranteed until students’ return. Since the professors need to see the syllabus to make the decision, students often have no way of knowing if the courses taken abroad will be counted before their programs start. This is discouraging for students who are considering studying abroad in their junior or senior years — which account for the majority of the applicants — since they will only have two or three semesters to meet all their major requirements upon their return to Brandeis.
Prof. Lucy Goodhart (IGS), a study abroad liaison, told the Justice that professors do not formally pre-approve courses because students might discover at the start of the program that their course is not actually available, or because an “even more enticing” course has caught their eye. Not approving courses, therefore, ensures “flexibility,” she said. Although most of the students we spoke to applauded the department professors for being very supportive and helpful both during the application process and while the students were abroad, the system is a stressor for many students considering going abroad. The study abroad system should be reformed so that students can be guaranteed that they will receive specific academic credit for their classes abroad. To offer a fair and feasible study abroad program, Brandeis should create a process for guaranteeing major/minor credit before students go abroad.
Studying abroad is both an incredible opportunity and an important decision for any student to make. One should not feel the pressure to give up the chance to explore the world because they might not be able to finish their majors. This board urges the OSA to make changes accordingly so more students can utilize the opportunities they provide.