After years of inflexibility that often discouraged students from exploring study abroad opportunities, it appears that the Office of the Dean of Student Life and the majority of academic departments are not only allowing – but actively encouraging – students to experience foreign study. By doing so, the University is moving toward a more modern approach to the college experience – an experience that does not necessarily have to bind a student to the home campus for all four years.
Where departments once openly cautioned that going abroad would hurt a student's 'Princeton experience,' the Woodrow Wilson School, History, English, Comparative Literature, and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology departments now stress that foreign study can be rewarding. Many departments have put themselves on the same page with Assistant Dean of Student Life Nancy Kanach to support study abroad as an "important element in undergraduate education."
An increasingly standardized approach to choosing and receiving approval for classes offered by foreign universities, improved communication through email and fax technology, and the end of the age-old myth that completing junior independent work overseas is impossible, have eased the way for students looking beyond New Jersey's horizon.
While it may now be recognized that studying abroad improves students' college experiences and gives them a richer perspective, not all academic departments have followed suit. The Engineering department is especially notorious for the lack of options it offers its students. There is no reason why engineers should be denied the opportunities available to any other liberal arts student. To expand their program and start the move toward greater flexibility, the engineering department could follow the example set by the Wilson school and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, which essentially transplant entire classes to foreign countries while allowing a bit of traditional cohesion.
The recent improvements have enabled the study abroad program to take a quantum leap toward establishing Princeton as a university in the world's service. This new outlook must now be built upon and sustained.