Students returning to Cambridge from semesters spent in Paris and Peru will meet this fall to advise the office responsible for Harvard’s growing study abroad program.
In another effort to encourage students to study abroad, Director of the Office International Programs Jane Edwards asked returning study abroad students at a reception Monday to join a committee to discuss ways to facilitate the study abroad experience.
“I want to talk to the students to see what [the study abroad experience] is like from their perspective,” Edwards said, “so we can make it work not just from an administrative point of view, but from a student’s point of view.”
Edwards stressed that students who have spent time abroad have a valuable perspective to add.
“Coming back illuminated how distinct Harvard culture is, and how contained in the Square it remains,” said Tiffany Chantra ’04, who spent last fall in Rome.
This new development comes in a long line of improvements to the study abroad program at Harvard, including a new rule, effective this semester and applying retroactively, that allows students spending a semester abroad to reduce their Core Curriculum requirements by one.
“It was a huge relief to return from study abroad and find out that I would get an extra Core exemption for my semester away,” said Katharine E. Jackson ’04, who was in Paris last fall.
Edwards said she also plans to change the evaluation forms that returning students are asked to fill out, perhaps adding a numerical scale in order to gather quantitative student opinion and calculate student satisfaction.
“All evaluative material has been fairly spotty,” Edwards said, making it harder for students to choose and compare programs.
And as the number of studying abroad increases—there are 93 students studying abroad this semester, compared to 51 students last fall—the office is also trying to improve services for returning students, Edwards said.
Though specific programs for undergraduates here are still in the works, the office is offering to send returning students to the upcoming Metro Boston Area Students Study Abroad Reentry Conference, a meeting designed to help students re-adjust to life in the U.S. and market their study abroad experiences.
In the meantime, students itching to spend a semester outside the U.S. are streaming into the office as the Oct. 15 deadline for spring semester study abroad approaches.
“There are definitely more students coming in, especially freshmen,” said Lauren Oliver, a program assistant in the office, which is located in the basement of University Hall.