Georgetown University is one of the United States’ premier schools for international affairs, but the university’s study abroad opportunities are limited. The university must strengthen its programs by making them more affordable for and accessible to all students.
Georgetown is the fourth-best U.S. college or university to study international affairs, with its master’s program ranking first, according to Foreign Policy Magazine. In addition to top-of-the-line faculty, Georgetown students get to hear from international relations scholars and professionals like former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and recent presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Many Georgetown students realize the importance of supplementing an academic education with a cultural one: Over 60 percent of students in the School of Foreign Service already study abroad.
Unfortunately, the expense of studying abroad and the years when students are able to study limit the ability of many students to travel overseas.
Georgetown students who study abroad are charged Georgetown tuition for the duration of their program. This policy is problematic: Georgetown’s rates almost always far exceed those of any other elite institutions overseas. For example, tuition at Oxford University does not exceed $30,000; Georgetown tuition currently stands at $66,971. Also troublesome is that students who study abroad have to pay for their own “transportation, meals, housing, passport/visa fees, insurance or personal expenses,” according to the Office of Global Education.
The university applies on-campus financial aid packages to semesters or years abroad, but only 38 percent of Hoyas receive some need-based scholarship or grant, according to U.S. News & World Report. The fact that Georgetown does not assist in other expenses when travelling overseas for all students is also unfortunate, because learning how to live in a new country can take a financial toll on an individual still in search of affordable shops and transportation means. The high costs of travelling abroad likely deter Georgetown students wishing to study overseas.
Even though a Georgetown student may memorize the years of battles or morals of fables transcribed in textbooks, enriching oneself in the lands where such events transpired provides a unique and worthwhile supplement.
After taking a course about Greek philosophy several years ago, I fell in love with the Greek culture and the country’s history. The following summer, I worked to save enough money to travel to Greece; I had the opportunity to walk the streets of Athens to better understand the lives of the ancient Greeks who had once created an empire that many had marvelled at thousands of years ago. Although I had read about the Greek adornment of the goddess Athena, experiencing the grandeur of the Acropolis temple fostered a new understanding of Greece’s history and culture. I had read about the destruction and violence amid Athens as the Persians plunged wholeheartedly into the city during the fifth century B.C., but my reflections were concentrated and developed by seeing the ruins myself.
Although I travelled to Greece on my own time, doing so as part of a Georgetown-facilitated program would be much more difficult as a freshman. The cultural norm at Georgetown is to study abroad during a student’s junior year — doing so earlier is very difficult. When I sat with my dean discussing opportunities to spend some time abroad next year — my sophomore year — the combined forces of the Office of Global Education and the SFS curriculum presented seemingly endless roadblocks. Many due dates to apply for certain programs had passed without my being notified, and there were many core classes that my dean thought I should take before I would be well-equipped to fully appreciate a study abroad experience. To prioritize core academic requirements far before study abroad experiences places unnecessary limits on what Georgetown students can achieve during their four years.
Being able to study overseas earlier than their junior year also accelerates students’ language skills.
Nearly three years ago, while in Dubai, I saw signs, advertisements and newspapers written in Arabic every day. Also, I learned about and saw first-hand the effects of the political situation in the Gulf region, such as the inability of citizens to speak ill of their governments. This cultural exposure immersed me in language and culture, dramatically increasing my ability to understand not only Arabic, but the pressing subjects being discussed. My experience abroad will be exceptionally beneficial when I take the Georgetown Proficiency Exam soon, as the exam requires a student to talk about the politics related to the culture of where the language of choice is spoken.
Georgetown clearly realizes the importance of studying international relations. To further its mission as “one of the world’s leading academic and research institutions, led by a faculty of both scholars and practitioners,” SFS administrators should create more opportunities for students to study abroad by working with the OGE to make programs more accessible and affordable.
Youssef Osman is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. Capital Affairs appears online every other Thursday.