Mandating Study Abroad

Having studied French on and off for the last nine years of my life, one would think that my command of the language would enable me to function successfully in La Rochelle with little problem.  After two weeks here, I have discovered that my foreign language study did not begin nine years ago but rather five minutes after I walked off the plane. 

No class, no software, no tutor could possibly replace the experience of having to live and study in a foreign country.  In France I am forced to think, to speak, and to act in French.  I am forced to assert myself in French and dive into the culture and the society.  These are experiences that no three-hour a week course can produce.  While they cannot replace the importance of studying elementary and intermediate grammar and vocabulary (as the Longwood courses do very well), these experiences represent the natural extension and conclusion for an effective study of a foreign language. 

If Longwood University intends to remain a liberal arts college with a commitment to the study of foreign languages (and I believe it should), then they ought to fully embrace the opportunities made possible by study abroad programs like the one here in La Rochelle.  It should move to not only expand the variety of foreign language programs but also offer incentives for students to study abroad. 

Many will say that study abroad programs are prohibitively expensive for most students.  I would argue that the cost of a four-week program like the La Rochelle program is no different from the cost of a semester at Longwood University.  The university should move to offer a wide variety of course and credit opportunities that could substitute for a semester at Longwood.  At present, some students in my group are earning nine credits (Goal Nine, Goal 14, and either French 201/202).  It seems natural that if one student can earn either 201 or 202 (as we are all in the same class) then a study abroad program could combine the course for 6 credits.  This would bring the La Rochelle Program to a total of 12 credit hours (the minimum for a full-time student). 

If the university could find another course to combine with the others mentioned in this post, Longwood could potentially (depending on economic/currency conditions/length of program) encourage every student of Longwood University to study abroad (for 15 credits or an average semester) at no additional cost to the student.  Any costs incurred could be lower for the student as they have earned an additional 15 credits over the summer and would be one semester closer to graduation.  It would follow then that they would be free of room and board expenses for a semester.  The money saved from these expenses alone could finance a single student to go abroad.      

Studying abroad is something that every serious student should be able to do.  This experience could be encouraged by offering a greater variety of “block” courses as I mentioned above, providing greater financial assistance to students to further aid them, and even possibly moving to make it a requirement of every student.  As I have demonstrated, if managed properly, the cost to a student could be far lower if they were able to receive a semesters worth of credit by participating in a program like La Rochelle.  Longwood University is an institution which prides itself on its liberal arts and commitment to diversity, and should do more to encourage programs like the La Rochelle study abroad.

~Ollie Garland ’12

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