Leaving vs. Leading: Debating Study Abroad

“I definitely lament the fact that I even had to make the choice at all,” says Adams.

Organizations could change their election processes and timelines, according to Council President Rohit Chopra ’04.

“Going into leadership almost always requires you to be here for three consecutive semesters,” says Chopra, who says he discussed this problem when he served on the Committee on Undergraduate Education.

Instead of stretching election processes across several semesters, Chopra suggests that organizations could confine them to a semester.

“[Organizations will] learn how to adjust when they realize that people are going to have to make those tough decisions,” he says.


Though she questions the practicality of changing procedures, IRC Vice President Swati Mylavarapu ’05 agrees. “I don’t doubt organizational structure is going to have to change,” says Mylavarapu, who considered studying abroad next semester but decided against it.

If organizations move towards semester-long leadership positions and more frequent turnover, she says, the change may lead to greater inefficiency.

Other student leaders, like Phillips Brooks House Association President Ayirini M. Fonseca-Sabune ’04, also express skepticism of changing the process.

“It’s pretty important that the student leaders get chosen before the semester starts,” she says. “I think the timing is really crucial to transition.”

Edwards, the director of the OIP, says change is possible.

While she says Harvard does not necessarily have to follow suit, she points out that other college campuses are able to accommodate up to half of their students studying abroad.

“Some of those structural issues [at Harvard] can change, and may,” she says.

Though she says study abroad is a “significant international experience” which “everybody should have,” she says students can also pursue international experiences through summer internships or post-graduate studies. And many student leaders agree.

Meanwhile, as students and organizations struggle to figure out how study abroad can fit into their plans, Gross acknowledges, “This will be a slow cultural change.”