Deciding to Study Abroad
The Vassar faculty requires that study abroad be an integral part of a student’s overall academic plan. This does not mean that study abroad plans must relate only to the major, but it does mean that students must demonstrate that their plans for study abroad support and enhance intellectual interests that they have pursued, and will continue to pursue, on campus.
Students thinking of study abroad should carefully weigh the benefits of off-campus study against the academic benefits of a semester or year on campus. Are there specific academic benefits in such study that would not be possible were they to remain at Vassar? Foreign language majors have an evident justification for study abroad, but students with a wide range of departmental and program majors at Vassar may profit from the in-depth exposure to a foreign culture that study abroad entails. Other advantages might include coursework toward the major or correlate that is not offered at Vassar, fieldwork opportunities that enhance departmental offerings, and language acquisition. In weighing these considerations, it is essential that students consult in detail with their major advisors, acquaint themselves with the academic calendar of the program or university in which they are interested, and make as concrete plans as possible regarding coursework abroad. If one's plans include an independent study or internship, these must be mapped out ahead of time with the major adviser. Fieldwork experiences abroad do not receive credit.
In order to study abroad, a student must have taken appropriate coursework at Vassar. This preparation may consist of both specific prerequisite courses and more general cultural study. Students who plan to go to a European country where Vassar requires prior language study—where enrollment in a foreign university is encouraged — such study must be a continuing and meaningful part of the student's program at Vassar. In addition, students should be able to explain clearly how they plan to build upon the academic work completed abroad when they return to campus, and thus second semester seniors may not study abroad.
There is a great difference between travel and study abroad, and while the former may be "the experience of a lifetime" which fosters personal growth, foreign study must be directed to advancing academic goals. Summer study abroad may be appropriate for some students.