Winter 2019 will see 103 students abroad, setting university participation record

Study Abroad Advisor says new programs in Barcelona and Florence likely contributed to enthusiasm

Andrew Brennan, 20, enjoys a safari in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo courtesy of Andrew Brennan, 20.

Andrew Brennan, ’20, enjoys a safari in Cape Town, South Africa. Photo courtesy of Andrew Brennan, ’20.

Tate Mikkelsen

A record high of 103 Washington and Lee students will study abroad during winter term

2019, according to Study Abroad Advisor Cindy Irby.

Washington and Lee students already study abroad at a significantly higher rate than most U.S. college-aged students. Sixty percent of Washington and Lee students will study abroad during their college career, while only 1.6 percent of students nationally study abroad for credit, according to the U.S. Department of State.

“Students abroad have had good experiences, and they’re talking to sorority sisters and friends, making studying abroad seem smooth enough,” Irby said.

She noted that in total, 143 students will have studied in Europe, the Galapagos, Australia, New Zealand, Dubai, Japan and more during the 2018-2019 school year.

Irby said she usually sees an average of 50 to 60 students travelling abroad per semester but believes that opening up more programs to receive academic credit in Barcelona and Florence has attributed to the increase in participants.

“Historically, you had to petition to study in these locations, but the International Education Committee approved more programs there last year, so in those two places alone we have 33 applicants,” Irby said.

The U.S. Department of State’s website states that studying abroad is beneficial to helping students adapt as “future global leaders” with the ability to “feel at home in a fast-changing world.” According to the website, the benefits of American students immersing themselves in a new environment include learning how to “navigate different cultures, work with diverse peers, and communicate in other languages.”

Students interested in studying abroad simply need to schedule an appointment with Irby, discuss what experience they have in mind and find an approved program that meets their needs. The ease of studying abroad is a draw for some students, according to Andrew Brennan, ‘20.

Brennan has traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark and Cape Town, South Africa with the university over the past two years. This upcoming semester, he will be studying in Florence, Italy, adding yet another country to his growing list.

“W&L just makes it so easy to go, and I’ve wanted to go to Italy for a long time,” Brennan said. “I was between Florence and Rome, but Florence had the business classes I needed.”

Tim Pierce, ‘20, said he believes so many students study abroad because of Washington and Lee’s unique spring term and accessible financial aid.

During spring term, students take one class intensively for the last four weeks of the academic year. This term gives student leaders, athletes, and those with community obligations the opportunity to enroll in a spring term abroad class and experience something new while engaging even more fully with the material.

“Financial aid travels with you, so it’s affordable,” Pierce said, referencing how even Washington and Lee’s Johnson Scholars and other academic scholarship recipients can apply their awarded aid overseas.

Financial aid for the school year does not transfer to spring term abroad courses, but students can apply for aid for that term. Last year, University President Will Dudley allocated additional funds to the spring term abroad program, enabling some students with high demonstrated need to have their entire trips covered. Previously, students were only able to receive funding for up to half the costs of the program.

The Center for International Education office is located in the Center for Global Learning, near the Tea House. Photo by Tate Mikkelson, ’20.

“I am pleased to announce that, through the continued generosity of the Rupert Johnson gift, Washington and Lee will provide institutional grants to meet the full costs of Spring Term Abroad programs- for our students with financial need, effective immediately,” Dudley wrote in an email announcement.

Emily Tucker, ‘20, said part of the reason she chose Washington and Lee was because she had always wanted to study abroad for a semester and while touring, she realized how easy Washington and Lee’s study abroad office would make the process. She will study abroad in Barcelona next semester.

“Barcelona seems like such a cool city and I needed to fulfill my language credit, so it was the perfect place to go,” Tucker said.

Irby said a lot of people assume students study in groups, but studying abroad is not a one-size-fits-all experience. While some students like Brennan have traveled abroad with Washington and Lee already, other students like Tucker are taking advantage of the Center for International Learning for the first time.

“Some will want to live with a host family and really immerse themselves in the language, others are going to fulfill specific classes,” Irby said. “It has to be a spectrum to meet students where they are.”