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Summer Study Abroad

Hiking a medicinal plant trail in Quito, Ecuador. Painting at a temple in Ubud, Indonesia. Touring a cheese cave outside Paris. These are among students’ experiences during the Office of International Programs' (OIP) month-long summer study abroad program.

Each year some 300 students enroll in the Boston College faculty-designed and led summer excursion courses. An international complement to any field of study, and an immersive if brief test run for those unsure whether to spend a full semester abroad, the summer program, established in 2001, is something every student should at least consider.  

Among the program’s pluses:

girl swinging from tree

Variety. The OIP's Summer 2017 offerings include 27 courses in 14 countries in Europe, Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and New Zealand. There are classes in the humanities, including Food Writing in Paris with Suzanne Berne, a lecturer in English; fine arts; business (Managerial Accounting in Dublin with the Carroll School of Management’s Dianne Feldman, for instance); theology; health and natural sciences; philosophy; and the social sciences. Rosemary Byrne, a clinical instructor in nursing, will teach Global Health Perspectives in Quito, Ecuador. Economics Professors Can Erbil and Christopher Baum offer a new course Social, Political, and Economic Analysis of Immigration Issues in Germany, during a trip to Berlin.

Immersive activities and excursions that complement the curriculum. Food, Power, and Politics in Parma, Italy, for example, includes visits to the ALMA cooking school, the European Food Safety Authority, and four food museums. Communicating Colonization through Contemporary Work in New Zealand features trips to dairy and sheep farms of Waikato, geothermal sites in Waitomo, and Taupo, where Peter Jackson filmed much of The Lord of the Rings.

Spanish Art History: From Al-Andalus to Picasso marked the first time Cassie Sando ’17, a first-generation undergraduate, left the United States. She says she was nervous before traveling to Madrid last summer but “ready to see the world and explore.” Visiting the Prado and Reina Sofía, and embracing the siestas, late dinners, and many other cultural traditions, she says, “I grew a lot in those four weeks; it was really my first time on my own.” The New Mexico native says she’s now considering an international career.

Studying abroad offers more than an academic experience, notes OIP Director Nick Gozik. “It’s also about gaining critical skills that employers and graduate schools are looking for: independence, adaptability, and the ability to recognize and adapt to cultural differences.”

Relationships with Boston College faculty. The average enrollment in a summer abroad course is about 12, less than half the average class size of most undergraduate courses held on campus. Students and their professors live together for a month in accommodations that include homestays, university residence halls, and hotels. This encourages “really close connections with Boston College faculty,” says Gozik. And when students travel “with someone who’s knowledgeable and who’s trained, they see things they never would have imagined. They really get down to a different level of culture.”

They’re brief. Every course spans four weeks—classes meet daily—and is worth three credits, the same number assigned to most semester-long courses at the University. (The single exception is a five-week, six-credit intensive intermediate French course in Bordeaux.) The brevity of the experience may encourage some students to venture to a “more adventurous place than they might be willing to go to for a semester,” says Erin Shevlin, OIP’s summer and internships program manager.

Writing Out of Place (May 18–June 15, 2017), for example, takes students to the lush Himalayan hills of Mussoorie, India, where English Professor Suzanne Matson guides them in writing nonfiction narratives, poetry, and fiction that explores location and dislocation. And in Religion, Racial Justice, and Reconciliation in South Africa (July 22–August 19), the theology department’s Stephen Pope and Erik Owens lead students to Cape Town, Durban, and Pretoria in an exploration of apartheid, HIV/AIDs, reparations, and forgiveness.

“The class galvanized me to seek justice in every sense of the word,” says Robin Kim ’18 of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who was one of the 13 students in the inaugural South African course in summer 2016. He applied after taking an Introduction to Christian Theology course with Pope, whom he says was “like a second dad” on the trip. “Living with him 24/7, I witnessed a much more human side of my professor.” A geological sciences major, Kim had been thinking of a career in oceanography. But seeing the realities of the townships of Nyanga and Khayelitsha firsthand made him realize “how much of a call scientists have to engage with local communities that are impoverished and marginalized.”

Accsessibility. There are no prerequisites or minimum GPA requirements for the summer program. Unlike semester abroad programs, each summer course is open to all rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors.  

Total costs, between tuition, housing, activities, airfare, and meals, range from $5,000 to $10,000 (estimated costs for each program are available here). OIP offers up to 100 travel grants for summer and semester abroad students each year, and strongly encourages them to apply for other scholarships on campus and external funding. For example, the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center offers a summer study abroad tuition remission program, and the McGillycuddy-Logue Center for Undergraduate Global Studies offers travel grants to students with financial need. A full listing of scholarship and grant opportunities is available here.

OIP encourages students to peruse its detailed descriptions of each program online to help decide which program fits them best. They also offer drop-in hours in their Hovey House office, and suggest students discuss options with their faculty advisors.

Applying is also easy online and entails only uploading a transcript and writing two short essays. Applications may be submitted any time between October 15 and February 5. For more information visit OIP’s summer program page.

Students are encouraged to contact their OIP advisors or other on-campus resources with any questions or concerns prior to departure or while abroad. For up-to-date information on current advisories, students and parents should visit OIP’s travel alerts website page.

Safety and Wellness
OIP stresses that the “safety and welfare of our students abroad is our first and foremost priority.” Recognizing students’ and parents’ concerns about potential dangers abroad, the Office:

  • Provides information about country-specific health and safety during the advising process and at predeparture orientation. (Additional resources are available in the Study Abroad Handbook.)
  • Recommends students register with the U.S. Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program online, through which they receive updates on safety conditions from the embassy in their host country.
  • Establishes close contact with its on-site colleagues, students, and emergency contacts as necessary in the event of an emergency, political crisis, or natural disaster in a city or country in which the OIP has a program in session.  



—by Zak Jason '12