Approximately 6,500 students have enrolled at Harvard Summer School, making this year’s one of the largest summer classes in the program’s history. The program’s students represent over 200 colleges and universities, 49 states, possessions, and territories, and over 100 countries.
The program allows students to study either in Cambridge or abroad, and 500 students have enrolled in one of 23 study abroad programs, which include programs for archaeology in Peru, neuroscience in Italy, and African studies in Ghana.
Approximately 19 percent of students studying at Harvard this summer are internationals, a higher figure than the typical 10 percent of international students enrolled during the normal school year.
“Students from the States value meeting students from other countries and other cultures. It’s a very positive thing,” said Susan E. McGee, Registrar of the Division of Continuing Education. “It’s a great, diverse population which all the students appreciate.
This summer, Harvard issued over 1,100 I-20s, the educational visas for international students.
“It's not unusual for a student living on campus to have roommates from 3 different countries,” Robert H. Neugeboren, the dean of students for Harvard Summer School, wrote in an email. “They tell us they enjoy the diversity of perspectives in the classroom as well as in the dorms, during late night discussions on politics, culture, and current events.”
In fact, Helen D. Pontak’s summer dormitory is completely filled with international students. A rising high school junior, Pontak was born in California but has lived overseas since she was seven years old.
But she says that she hasn’t had any difficulty adjusting to life back in America.
“I lived in the Philippines for three years, Beijing for a year, and then Hong Kong for five years. So I’ve moved around a lot, and gotten to meet a lot of international people. Coming back here … I adapt easier,” Pontak said.
“[Harvard]’s an exciting place. It’s the school that you always hear about and see in movies – it’s kind of legendary in a way. You want to go have a course and see what it’s like,” said Michael V. Hansen, a masters student from Denmark studying applied economics and finance.
His friend Maria K. Nielsen, also of Denmark, remarked that the “diversity of so many people being together from so many countries” was one of the defining, and most exciting, features of the summer for her.
"[Our international students] add dimension and perspective to class discussions,” William J. Holinger, director of the Secondary School Program, wrote in an email. “Their enthusiasm for Harvard and the U.S. is genuine and refreshing – more often than not, both our university and our country, in reality, exceed the high expectations of international students.”
While most international students must be proficient in English prior to enrolling at Harvard, 550 students – including 50 still in high school – are enrolled in Intensive English Language Programs. “They will give a flavor to this place that probably isn’t felt during the school year,” said Lilith M. Haynes, assistant dean of the Division of Continuing Education for IEL Programs.
Of the 6,500 summer school students, 4,200 students are enrolled in the General Program, which includes non-high school students who are enrolled in a variety of classes. Five hundred are enrolled in the Institute for English Language Programs, 1,200 are in the Secondary School Program, 500 are participating in the Study Abroad Program, and 50 are in the Secondary School Intensive English Language Program. Approximately 250 students are taking classes entirely online.
“Each year,” Neugeboren wrote, “we hear from students, as well as instructors, proctors, and staff that one of the best, most memorable parts of their experience are the interesting students they meet from all over the world.”