Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More Students Head Overseas as Freshman

January 22, 2008; Page D1

Callie Broughton had an eventful freshman year at Florida State University -- in Spain. Ms. Broughton, now a 20-year-old junior, opted to study abroad in Valencia through a program for first-year students at Florida State. For one year, she lived in an apartment and took classes with other FSU students at the university's Valencia Study Center. In her spare time, she explored Europe.

There were downsides to going abroad the first year of college. "Missing Thanksgiving and stuff I had never missed in 18 years was definitely weird," she says. But the benefits outweigh the disadvantages: "You're getting to see the world at such a young age," she says. Ms. Broughton, an education major, is now a student recruiter for the program.

Freshman year has typically been considered a time for students to settle in and try living on their own for the first time, plan their course schedules and decide on a major. Now, a growing number of schools are expanding their study-abroad options for first-year students. "This was something that was very rarely done at all up until a few years ago," says Brian Whalen, president and chief executive of the Forum on Education Abroad and executive director of the Office of Global Education at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.

Spending freshman year abroad presents challenges for younger students: easy access to alcohol, lack of supervision and, given the weak dollar, surprisingly high prices for basic goods and services.

But schools say these programs provide a more globally focused education. As the world economy becomes increasingly intertwined, they argue, overseas experience is an increasingly important credential. The programs also appeal to students in majors -- such as the sciences -- that offer less flexibility in studying abroad during junior and senior years, since they typically offer course credit for the general requirements that freshmen need to fill. In the past, students who studied abroad were primarily liberal-arts majors


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