Kasha M. Klinegores, University of South Carolina
When we think of opportunities for students to study at locations separate from their home campus, usually we think of study abroad programs. Students and educators alike are often not aware that there are other opportunities for students to study away rather than study abroad.
Domestic study away programs can present great avenues for students to gain valuable experiences in different areas of the United States, Canada, and the U.S. territories. The purpose of this article is to inform academic advisors about study away options, share the benefits of participating in study away programs, and give advisors tips on how best to promote study away programs to students.
Overview of Domestic Study Away Programs
There are many different types of domestic study away programs that already exist. While this is not presented as an exhaustive list, these are some ways for students to participate in domestic study away programs.
National Student Exchange (NSE). The National Student Exchange (NSE) is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for students at member institutions to participate in semester, year-long, or summer exchanges at another NSE member institution. NSE has been around since 1968 and has sent over 100,000 students on exchange. There are nearly 200 colleges and universities that students may choose from throughout the United States, Canada, and the U.S. Territories—including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (National Student Exchange, 2011).
Faculty-led Trips. Another way for students to get domestic study away experience is to participate in study trips led by faculty members as a part of an academic course. Many institutions offer study away trips as a part of their common curriculum, honors curriculum, or other opportunities for travel while studying. Some institutions include “Maymester/May Term,”or “J-term/January Term” trips as part of their domestic study away programs. These are typically three to four week classes that incorporate a travel component within the United States to help facilitate student learning on a particular topic. These study away trips offer students great first-hand learning experiences and opportunities to connect what they are learning inside of the classroom to “real world” settings.
The Urban Education Semester (UES). The Urban Education Semester (UES) is available to “exceptional” sophomores, juniors, and seniors from any U.S. college or university. The semester is spent at Bank Street College of Education in New York City, NY. The program is extremely competitive, accepting only 7-14 students each semester. The UES is of particular interest to students wishing to pursue careers in education, systematic reform, urban development, public service, and public policy. Students spend three days each week in direct placement in New York City public schools, a huge and complex public educational system. Students examine the field of urban public education from the viewpoints of academics, policy makers, and educators. Coursework involves graduate-level study and includes group field trips, seminar-style group discussions, individual advising sessions for students, and an opportunity to integrate their studies with first-hand field experience (Brown University, n.d.).
Benefits of Study Away
There are many benefits to the various programs available through domestic study away. Similar to students who study abroad, students find that studying away domestically is a time for personal growth and development. They report returning to their home campus with a new sense of maturity and purpose. Although they are studying domestically, students learn from having experienced a different culture and a different area of the country. Students often gain greater self-confidence and become more independent. They are forced to go beyond their comfort zones while studying away and find themselves needing to develop important life skills such as independence, flexibility, inventiveness, and decision-making skills. They are more willing to take risks and gain a new understanding of others and the world (National Student Exchange, 2011).
Students have the chance to explore different career ideas and think about their own futures while studying away domestically. It can be a great time to network with future employers, obtain an internship, or gain experience in a field in which they have had no previous experience. Domestic study away opportunities also may be more affordable for students who cannot afford to study overseas (National Student Exchange, 2011).
Promoting Domestic Study Away Opportunities
Advisors working with students who are considering study abroad should also be made aware of domestic study away options. Advisors can educate themselves about study away programs by determining where the study away office is housed on campus (some are included in study abroad; others are housed in a separate office) and learning more about on-campus resources for study away programs. It is also important to let students know that they typically are not limited to just one study away or study abroad experience. In fact, some students participate in at least one semester of study abroad and one semester of domestic study away as undergraduates, enhancing their variety of meaningful experiences.
Although domestic study away is a field that has not previously had much exposure, it can be a fabulous experience for students. It has the power to transform perspectives and to change lives. An important aspect of study away is that it creates opportunities for students who previously thought they could not or would not study abroad gain important cultural experiences. Whether it is spending a semester at another campus in a different part of the country or studying for three weeks during “May Term” somewhere in the United States, domestic study away has the power to make a positive and meaningful impact on students.
Office of Student Engagement
University of South Carolina
Brown University. (n.d.) Urban education semester. Retrieved from http://www.urbanedsemester.org
National Student Exchange. (2011). What exactly is NSE? Retrieved from http://www.nse.org/exchange/desc.asp#1
Cite this article using APA style as: Klinegores, K.M. (2012, March). Domestic study away: Overview and benefits of cultural exploration. Academic Advising Today, 35(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]