Acceptance to a School Abroad
You have been chosen to participate in one of the Middlebury C.V. Starr Schools Abroad. Your success as a study abroad student will depend upon how well you have prepared yourself for the experience. This handbook covers a wide range of information necessary for this purpose. Please take the time to read this handbook carefully prior to departure, and know how to access it in your host country as well.
Middlebury sponsors programs abroad in Amman, Beijing, Belo Horizonte, Berlin, Bordeaux, Buenos Aires, Concepción, Córdoba (Spain), Delhi, Ferrara, Florence, Florianópolis, Getafe, Hangzhou, Irkutsk, Kunming, Logroño, Madrid, Mainz, Montevideo, Moscow, Niterói, Oxford, Paris, Poitiers, Potsdam, Rabat, Rome, Santiago, Temuco, Tokyo, Valdivia, Valparaíso, Villarrica, Viña del Mar, Yaoundé, and Yaroslavl. Over the years, thousands of students have benefited from the experience of living and studying in these cities, improving their language skills, and learning first-hand about foreign cultures and civilizations.
Middlebury has designed programs in which immersion in the host culture is a primary goal. We believe that study abroad can provide an important complement to study in the United States. Indeed, it often provides the occasion for students to profit from a richness of experience and to achieve a level of maturity not easily available in the familiar surroundings of home. The Middlebury Schools Abroad offer a variety of intellectual challenges, but, equally important, they offer a cultural experience that can give special meaning and depth to the more academic understanding of the language and civilization of the host country.
In deciding to study abroad, students should be aware and be prepared to accept that educational philosophies overseas differ substantially from those dominant at U.S. colleges and universities. While the higher education system in the U.S. is based on contract-like relations between faculty and students and continuous assessment, foreign educational cultures place primary responsibility for learning on the individual student. This is generally true even of overseas programs that are administered by a U.S. college or university, such as the Middlebury Schools Abroad, since in most cases their instructors are drawn from local institutions. While abroad, the principal vehicle of instruction tends to be the lecture, and class participation and discussion usually play a minor role. At the same time, students have greater freedom to pursue what interests them within the general framework of a given course than is often the case at home. Students will also generally have less interaction with professors, though most professors are pleased to interact with students who seek them out. In short, the experience of studying abroad is likely to be very different from what students in the U.S. are accustomed to and study abroad participants should not expect to find a U.S.-style campus at most study abroad sites. Students should embrace this challenge as a unique educational and cultural opportunity. Living and studying abroad is a cumulative experience. The advantages of being abroad for an academic year represent far more than the sum of two semesters, linguistically, culturally, and intellectually. Therefore, we strongly urge students to enroll for the full year whenever possible.
In addition to the linguistic, academic, and cultural differences you will encounter as you adjust to life in another country, there are other important aspects of your experience that may offer special challenges. For example, the typical U.S. academic program is structured to achieve its goals as efficiently as possible. You will almost certainly find less structure and less emphasis on efficiency abroad; on the other hand, you will have more time to delve into topics according to your own particular inclination and sense of intellectual responsibility. Things may not be as easily accessible as you are accustomed to in the U.S. (e.g. libraries and computers), and you may find yourself dealing with more bureaucracy. Finally, if you come from a town, suburb, or a secluded campus, you may find that living in a city requires as many adjustments as living in a new culture.
Our host countries are rich in cultural opportunities and you are strongly encouraged to take full advantage of museums, galleries, theater, music, lectures, and the many exhibitions that are offered in each city, as well as special activities and opportunities sponsored by your School Abroad. Don’t get stuck in the rut of going to clubs and bars, or sitting in front of a screen talking with loved ones back home. It is important for students to broaden their horizons and to learn the language in as many different environments as possible.
The Schools Abroad seek to offer students a combination of structure and independence. The primary role of the on-site staff is to oversee the academic components of the program. In addition, the staff oversees an effective immersion process that ensures that students get settled into appropriate living situations and provides the support they need to engage in a wide range of co-curricular activities and self-directed travel. The staff is also always available in the case of medical or other emergencies. Students themselves, however, retain ultimate responsibility for many aspects of the study abroad experience including their finances, the fulfillment of academic requirements, and, depending on the site, their living and travel arrangements. One of the goals of the program is to produce students capable of autonomous living in the host country after their period of study abroad.