At a time when engagement with other parts of the world seems particularly important, the University is busy dismantling its study abroad infrastructure. We are not privy to all the complexities underlying the decision to cancel the recently initiated Tours program, nor were we when Villa Spelman went the way of the Passenger Pigeon. The administration probably had good reason to axe these opportunities, but from the perspective of the student body, such moves seem little more than spiteful.
The fact is, no option was introduced to replace Villa Spelman, once considered a flagship program, and there is no information to suggest that one is forthcoming in the case of Tours. We're left with mixed messages. Going abroad is hailed almost universally as a valuable experience for any college student, yet the University appears uninterested in providing the support that many students require to navigate the intricacies of studying in a foreign country.
Dean Falk, in his comments on the Tours cancellation, highlighted precisely the problem that the University must face. If it is truly committed to providing the most outstanding education possible and also being a competitive institution among its peers, the University should create and fully fund an office devoted exclusively to enhancing students' access to study abroad opportunities.
Such an office would have several tasks. One would be to reach out to foreign universities in order to develop more offerings in which Hopkins is a principle partner. The office would also liaise with third parties to ensure that Hopkins students can easily participate in their programs and receive full credit for their work. In addition, a dedicated study abroad office would also attempt to increase interest among students and work with departments to tailor programs to fit their respective educational missions.
It seems almost ridiculous that study abroad, an institution that is becoming increasingly necessary in all disciplines, is so slighted at Hopkins. Just a few miles away, Goucher College recently became the first college in the United States to require every student to go abroad. Goucher is even guaranteeing a voucher of at least $1,200 to each traveling student. A new Hopkins study abroad office could learn a thing or two from our neighbors in Towson.
We know that easier access to study abroad is something students want, and not unreasonably. We hope that departments throughout the University lean on the administration and help make it happen, because now more than ever, knowledge knows no borders.