The Grand Tour of Europe, junior year in France, that exotic and romantic semester in South America — we cherish these as a bourgeois expectation for the American College Experience.But whatever personal value they hold, there’s only one feature these programs have in common: ludicrous, often-prohibitive cost.
It shouldn’t be this way, as foreign universities cost significantly less than than America’s.
Without initiatives like the EU’s Erasmus program, which guarantees credit for classwork done at a foreign university by the students’ home university, much of what students pay to study abroad beyond plane tickets, housing and classes are “processing fees.” This is to say, the guarantee that if a student goes abroad through his American university’s program that he will get credit for the courses taken abroad. And depending on the prestige of the university, costs to study abroad at the same university can vary.
Other programs allow students access to places that they might not be permitted otherwise. How many people can say they have gone to Syria to see Crusader monuments and early Christian archeology “with the knowledge and protection of both the Syrian authorities and the local U.S. diplomatic presence”?
Some are downright luxurious. From hopping from hotel to hotel in Greece in constant pilgrimage to archaeological sites to lodging in a fully-restored, 16th century palace a vespa ride from Rome, the cruddy residence halls and roach-infested French student hotels of lore are conspicuously absent.
'Praise be to God Alone!' reads the Seal of His Majesty Hassan II on Al-Akhawayn University, a Moroccan uni located in the ski resort community of Ifrane in the Middle Atlas mountains.
East of Casablanca and south of Fez, the only residential university in Morocco hosts a SUNY Binghamton study-abroad program in English, although Arabic courses are required. Founded in 1995, it is modelled on the American university system. Its architectural oeuvre -- cedar, a ski resort standard, with Islamic influence -- is as singular as its geographic location.
Program Cost: $17,000
Aside from housing the only university in Africa to make it to the world's Top 200 Universities list, Cape Town is the most popular international tourist spot in South Africa. It also has multiple beaches with different settings and atmospheres which can be arrived at in the same day.
Sure, this program is cheaper than a Princeton semester, but grades earned at the University of Cape Town won't show up on their Princeton transcripts either.
Program Cost: $20,180*
The FSP (Foreign Study Program) to Greece is 'while loosely based in Athens, consists for the most part of extensive field trips under the direction of a member of the Department of Classics to various parts of the ancient Greek world including Crete and the Aegean islands.' Which is to say, in hotels -- even if one student complained on the program blog that Greek hotel builders do not place enough emphasis on shower curtains.
This is not to say that the trip is not rigorous - all that gallivanting from archaeological site to site is reported to be as exhausting as it is exhilarating. As one might imagine 11 weeks of travelling from Athens to Istanbul (erm, Constaninople?) to Nafplio to Delphi to Kalambaka to...
*Dartmouth has a quarter system, so this is 1/3 of the year's costs.
Program Cost: $20,400
UC Berkeley students can study marine biology and terrestrial ecology at the University of Queensland, Brisbane. While their exploration of nature is only permitted with UC students, they live in homestays with Australian families. To improve their language skills?
Program fees include excursions, flight, on-site orientation and 'automatic transfer of credits and grades to your UC transcript.'
Program cost: $23,000
This building was designed by a Swedish architect. It is situated in the midst of a densely wooded area near the athletic fields, where not unlike many places in the US, deer frequently graze. This is one of those live-and-learn programs with group meals. A favourite quote from the website:
'Initially meals will be bland. After a week or so Indian dishes will be introduced. After a fortnight every meal will have more Indian and less western dishes.
One would assume that most Americans have eaten Indian food before, but does this mean that all non-Indian food is 'bland'? It was founded in 1837 by Scottish missionaries, which might explain that.
Program cost: $24,920 for out-of-state students, $19,580 for in-state
Auburn's bid for replicating the Grand Tour based out of Ariccia, a town 20 miles outside of Rome, is fairly convincing when students mimic 17th Century nobles by staying at the Palazzo Chigi through the Joseph S. Bruno Auburn Abroad Program. Students may be housed in the servant quarters, but that doesn't mean they can't luxuriate in the Spanish decor or the myriad 17th century paintings lining the walls.
Passed down through the eponymous Italian Pope dynasty, the palace was transformed into a baroque residence by Bernini between 1664 and 1672. It is also the setting of Luchino Visconti's film, The Leopard.
The Chigi palace was given to the City of Ariccia in December of 1988 under the conditions that it would serve as a cultural centre.
Program cost: $26,774
In the 1950s, long before most non-Turkish nationals were able to purchase real estate in Turkey, American Ambassador George McGhee discovered the villa, perched 600 feet above the Mediterranean. In 1968, he bought it, renovated it for family use. In 1989 he donated it to Georgetown.
The villa is a mansion dating to the Ottoman period, built by local Orthodox Christian merchants who exported timber to Egypt. When Ataturk and World War I ousted the last sultan, Alanya's trade routes were disconnected and the Christian community abandoned the Turkish coast for Greece.
It is located in the historic section of Alanya within the walled city overlooking the harbor. While students do not live here, they study and eat their meals at the villa, which maintains a garden full of bougainvillea, cypress, loquat, oregano and cacti, and the program includes a two-week orientation in Istanbul and Ankara, with a 10-day excursion to Syria.
Program Cost: $30,707
In one of NYU's famed international outposts, students can study West African culture while living in an NYU bubble. Much like their apartment buildings in the Village, Church Crescent and Solomon's Lodge, the places where students stay, have 24-hour security and air conditioning. They are also equipped, however, with TVs and DVD players, kitchens, living rooms and private bathrooms.
Excursions include trips out of Accra to Cape Coast and the Elmina forts, which functioned as a slave-trading outpost, Kakum National Park and Kumasi, among other. The program also allows students to visit the palace of queenmothers of the Ashanti state.
Intensive language classes are intended to ensure that students learn enough Twi to get around.
Program Cost: $33,416
Villa le Balze is the student residence for Georgetown's Florence program.
Students may study there for a year, a semester or a summer, and it is consistently the setting for lectures series, conferences and publications. Until 1979, it was the property of the Marquesa Rockefeller, granddaughter of Nelson D. She donated it to Georgetown with the stipulation that it be used as a place of learning in honour of her father, which is why it has been renamed the Charles Augustus Strong centre.
About 25 students per semester live in the villa. which comes with Tuscan cuisine, acres of gardens and a breathtaking view.
Program Cost: $35,691
Because you knew Georgetown couldn't be the only university with a villa in Tuscany.
NYU, unlike Georgetown and George Clooney, does not own just one villa -- NYU owns an estate. And that estate, called Villa La Pietra, includes 5 villas and 57 acres of gardens filled with cypress trees, Renaissance revival art, olive groves and poplar trees.
The estate fell into NYU's hands in 1994 when Sir Harold Acton, author of Memoirs of an Aesthete, bequeathed it to the University. Its gardens, meanwhile, mirror the tastes of its Anglo expat owners, who settled in the region en masse in the latter part of the 19th century.
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