Friday, April 10, 2009

Planning Early at Princeton

Once a student gets beyond financing issues, one of the biggest obstacles in study abroad is fitting in a term overseas. For students in highly technical fields, it’s a particular challenge that is one of the reasons why STEM students are less likely to go abroad than are others.

The issue is exemplified in this story in The Daily Princetonian, in which Senior Associate Dean Nancy Kanach says that many departments insist that students take core courses in their majors at Princeton. And that puts the pinch on students who want to study elsewhere.

“We insist that the core courses of our major … be studied at Princeton, or at institutions that offer courses of comparable rigor and depth,” economist Avinash Dixit told the newspaper in an e-mail. “Unfortunately, there are very few of these in the world. Therefore, we have to make sure that students plan their study abroad very early.”

In some instances, Princeton students must decide by freshman year whether they’ll study abroad so that they can line up prerequisites and major requirements in enough time to free up a term for study abroad. That can be difficult, Kanash says.

Some say a positive campus culture for undergraduates makes students hesitate about leaving Princeton for a semester or a year.

Peter Bogucki, associate dean for undergraduate affairs in the engineering school, says a so-called “Orange bubble” makes it difficult for some students to take a chance on study abroad.

“Princeton students become enmeshed in a web of friendships, activities, classes, sports, clubs and other personal relationships,” he says. “Breaking out of that web for a semester or a year requires effort, stamina and determination.”

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