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UChicago Study Abroad

RelocatedYankeeRelocatedYankee Registered User Posts: 146 Junior Member
Daughter is a first year at UChicago. She would very much like to complete her Civ requirements on one of the faculty led study abroad programs. She's off to a great start at Chicago. Great grades, broadly involved in athletics and campus political organizations, also juggles a work study job. Plan is to apply during second year for abroad program during a quarter of her third year. Many of her friends one year her senior applied for the Civ programs and uniformly got waitlisted. Took a peek at the study abroad applications FAQs and the competition for faculty led programs is described as "fierce." Anybody with insight? Fierce competition for study programs seems like the last thing these hard working kids need, and I hate the idea that a strong student cant get valuable international experience because Chicago has not met demand. I thought of directing my daughter to another school's program, but the quarter system makes that tricky. Thoughts?
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Replies to: UChicago Study Abroad

  • HydeSnarkHydeSnark Registered User Posts: 850 Member
    edited March 8
    Depends on the program, some locations are more competitive than others. All the Civ programs are way more popular because...well, you get out of Civ. But even within civ programs, more people want to go to Paris or Hong Kong than Senegal.

    I didn't bother with study abroad. It doesn't fit what I'm interested in and UChicago's programs are just UChicago but somewhere else. There isn't a ton of cultural immersion, classes are almost always taught in English with just UChicago kids, and it usually just ends up being an extended vacation with people you already vaguely know who aren't so different from the people you meet back in Hyde Park.

    If you want to enroll in another school's program just go for the fall semester. You'll start earlier but end before Christmas and can go back to Chicago for winter and spring. You'll have to talk to relevant departments to get credit transferred over but it is possible and is done semi-frequently. The best place to find quality programs is Swat's study abroad search engine.

    Alternatively, the direct enrollment programs are generally much better, and while direct enrolling in, say, LSE or Cambridge is very difficult*, the other ones (change the quarter filter to "full academic year") tend to cater to very specific people that very specifically know what they want to do, are less difficult to get into, and will likely provide a much more enriching cultural experience than going on a quarter long UChicago program. Downside is the language barrier (though some teach in English), and you will have to be away for an entire year.

    *On a semi-related side note - I'm currently preparing to apply for PhD programs next year, and it boggles my mind that I can simultaneously be a viable candidate for top tier US programs while not having a high enough GPA due to coursework unrelated to what I'm applying for to even be considered at Oxford or Cambridge. You basically can't get into these for direct enrollment if you don't have a near-perfect GPA and they don't seem to care that UChicago is really hard...
  • 85bears4685bears46 Registered User Posts: 404 Member
    @HydeSnark That will be Oxbridge loss if they are not considering you or other UChicago candidates solely because of grade deflation.
  • JBStillFlyingJBStillFlying Registered User Posts: 4,988 Senior Member
    Is the study abroad summer term less competitive than the Fall/Winer/Spring?

  • RelocatedYankeeRelocatedYankee Registered User Posts: 146 Junior Member
    Thank you both. Not sure how financial aid would work in the summer quarter and sadly adding a fourth quarter at our expense is out of our price range. It hadn’t occurred to me though that she could conceivably do a semester trip with another school and simply have it start earlier than the first quarter. I obviously don’t know that she won’t get accepted through Chicago, but the outcomes announced recently for next year were not what we were expecting. The idea of doing the Civ classes in a cradle of civilization was so very appealing during the application process.
  • kaukaunakaukauna Registered User Posts: 1,127 Senior Member
    Son studied one summer in Bejing. Submitted a successful grant application which covered tuition and living expenses. For the most part, our only expense was the flight (which was pretty cool because there is a direct flight out of O'Hare which flies over the North Pole).
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,987 Senior Member
    I'm not surprised to hear that the popular programs have gotten very competitive. I don't think they have expanded the programs much, in a period when they have increased the size of the average class by about 20%.

    My daughter was wrong-footed on this. Her advisor told her she was a "shoo-in" for the Vienna program, and . . . no. She was upset at the time, but that wound up being a really good quarter for her in Hyde Park. My other kid had the attitude that the University of Chicago is one of the greatest centers of scholarship on Earth, you have access to it for 12 quarters, why would you want to waste one of those quarters on a watered-down version of the college in some place you would like to go as a tourist? The academic quality of the abroad programs is not as high as people expect from their normal courses, as @HydeSnark 's comments make clear.

    One of my daughter's close friends did a direct-enrollment year at Sciences-Po in Paris. That was very successful.
  • JBStillFlyingJBStillFlying Registered User Posts: 4,988 Senior Member
    My daughter wants to do study abroad but most of the programs she's interested in fulfill the Civ. requirement. She's taking at least one Civ. sequence next year (2nd year) since she's thinking of majoring in History. Now I'm wondering if fulfilling the Civ. on campus will knock her out of contention. The History dept. strongly encourages Study Abroad so maybe it's a matter of working with her major advisor on best timing and strategy to fit her interests with a program.

    It's very difficult to do an immersion if you don't want to be away for an entire academic year. Getting the hang of the local culture takes longer than 10 weeks. Also, the foreign uni's may only give you exams and marks at year-end, making any fit to be awkward or grades not to "count" if you are there for a partial year. So it's not surprising that American uni's have set up their own programs in the host countries - the huge demand, parental concerns about "safety" and ease of conforming the program of study to the American grading and term system are among the reasons to do so. It's definitely not a true cultural experience but at least you can get something out of it. I also noticed on my own study abroad - which WAS an immersion but only for a partial year, that my fellow Americans were there to "see" and "do" but not to "experience". So even with some immersion programs, you can easily miss out, depending on your mind set.
  • JBStillFlyingJBStillFlying Registered User Posts: 4,988 Senior Member
    "My other kid had the attitude that the University of Chicago is one of the greatest centers of scholarship on Earth, you have access to it for 12 quarters, why would you want to waste one of those quarters on a watered-down version of the college in some place you would like to go as a tourist? The academic quality of the abroad programs is not as high as people expect from their normal courses, as @HydeSnark 's comments make clear."

    Yikes - it's watered-down? Hmm. We'll be discussing this topic over Spring Break.
  • runnersmomrunnersmom Registered User Posts: 2,067 Senior Member
    My D did the Vienna program fall quarter of her junior year, 2009, I think. Dean Boyer taught one of the classes, and I don't think she considered it a "watered down" version of an on-campus class at all. She really enjoyed the experience and arrived early to take a short course in German at the University of Vienna. Her UC coursework was in English, but she wanted to have at least a basic knowledge of German.
  • HydeSnarkHydeSnark Registered User Posts: 850 Member
    edited March 9
    It's different. You don't have time to read as much. I had a good time in Civ but I physically could not have gotten the same experience in one quarter because there wasn't enough time to read everything we read in Civ.

    Civ is about reading primary sources. They didn't tend to be great works of literature or philosophy, like you read in Hum, and they didn't tend to be powerful arguments and interpretations of our world, like what you read in Sosc. They were just a very disparate collection of things people wrote in the area and times we were studying. We spent the class discussing and interpreting them, trying to formulate an argument about what was happening and why people thought the way they did. This is hard. It takes time and effort and a lot of practice. I took it as a first year and was way over my head for like half a quarter.

    Civ, at least the way it was formulated originally, isn't really about cultural immersion - and, while I don't dispute the benefits of going to another place and living there for a while - I don't think that's going to help you read primary sources with a more critical eye and I really don't think UChicago's programs will help you culturally immerse yourself in any case.

    People go abroad for Civ because they want to get out of Civ while being on an extended vacation for a quarter. If that's what you want - great, but I think you're going to be missing the benefit of Civ AND missing the benefit of studying abroad. IMO people should take Civ on campus and either do a language immersion study abroad offered by UChicago (if you want to learn a language in another country over the summer FLAG grants are NOT very hard to get!), a full year enrollment program, or a study abroad program outside of UChicago.
  • JBStillFlyingJBStillFlying Registered User Posts: 4,988 Senior Member
    Is it possible to study abroad spring of Senior year?

    I'm looking at my D's prospective schedule over the next few years (I know - insane - but it wasn't hard to figure out). While there are no hard and fast rules for her major, she's best off if she's in residence spring of 3rd year through Winter of 4th. Thesis due by 2nd Friday of Spring - 4th year. If she accelerates that leaves spring free with just electives. Why not do Study Abroad if she can keep on top of the housekeeping details that will inevitably arise and be back in time (have no idea on either of those). Just checked the catalog and there doesn't seem to be a residency requirement for spring Q of 4th year.

    Totally agree that Civ is best accomplished on campus, esp. for those interested in working with primary sources in their career (anything research-oriented, probably). UChicago is supposed to be renowned for its Civ sequences. It probably depends on your specific major but seems to me the most beneficial experience over the course of a mere 10 weeks would be to take pure electives - or at least use the credits as electives. The big question would be whether getting accepted to a West. or Europ. Civ study abroad is repetitive of the concepts if you've already taken that subject in HP, or whether there is anything new to learn academically.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 17,987 Senior Member
    Ummm, that's an interesting idea, @JBStillFlying , but I would think it through a little before trying to sell it to your kid.

    The last quarter of college is an emotional time -- lots of nostalgia, lots of intense engagement with your friends. For most people, it's the last time in their lives when they have the time and ability to study something intensely purely for the love of knowledge, without a bunch of other daily responsibilities. Some students have post-college jobs or graduate school lined up before spring quarter begins, but lots don't, and some of that stuff would be hard to manage at long distance. Plus, it's common for people who are abroad for a quarter not to rush home as soon as classes end. They travel for a few weeks, or a month. Which if one were a fourth-year would mean skipping the Convocation ceremony.

    I do know people who would have been perfectly happy to bail on college before the last semester/quarter. But not many.

    If what you want is a living-abroad immersion and travel experience, there are lots of ways to make that work in the months or year(s) after you graduate.
  • JBStillFlyingJBStillFlying Registered User Posts: 4,988 Senior Member
    edited March 10
    "The last quarter of college is an emotional time -- lots of nostalgia, lots of intense engagement with your friends."

    Um, it wasn't for me. But then my best friend at the time was a bit ticked off that I thought graduating from college was sorta like finishing Chapter 15. People handle it in different ways. A bit confused about how someone can feel that emotional good byes beat out a once in a lifetime study abroad but - oops - there's that Chapter 15 mindset again LOL.

    "For most people, it's the last time in their lives when they have the time and ability to study something intensely purely for the love of knowledge, without a bunch of other daily responsibilities."

    Totally agree. By final quarter D would be done with everything save a few electives. Not sure if 4th years get priority but if so she's golden.

    "Plus, it's common for people who are abroad for a quarter not to rush home as soon as classes end. They travel for a few weeks, or a month. Which if one were a fourth-year would mean skipping the Convocation ceremony."

    Very hard to travel if you are abroad in Autumn or Winter (well, I suppose you can travel before the autumn quarter starts up). Anyway, D's major program recommends studying abroad during these quarters in third year so that the students are in residence during the BA seminar. However, they do make allowances so there is some flexibility. D would need to weigh the pros and cons but I suspect that short of a direct-enroll full-year program, she's not going to apply for a spring program before the 4th year - and then perhaps not even then. Her options might even come down to a very limited window or not going at all during undergrad. Fortunately, she has several months to speak to her major advisor about this and get input and advice.

    "If what you want is a living-abroad immersion and travel experience, there are lots of ways to make that work in the months or year(s) after you graduate."

    That's true. I think she'd love going and would benefit even from a faculty-led quarter-long program. We just have to see if what UChicago offers fits her needs or whether another program makes more sense. As I mentioned earlier, she'd most likely use the UChicago courses as electives rather than fulfilling a core or major requirement, though perhaps it might be possible to get some of them approved for a history major :).
  • ihs76ihs76 Registered User Posts: 1,866 Senior Member
    edited March 10
    Academically, I have mixed feeling about this. Back in the day, as a second year STEM major with no interest in history, I took Far Eastern Civ for my Civ requirement, which was a completely unmemorable experience. Then as a 4th year, having drank of the UChicago Kool-aid, I somewhat randomly ended up taking Weintraubs Western Civ as an elective, which has been a life impacting experience.

    Bottom line, not all Civ on campus is equal and I suspect not a small number end up with meh experiences.

    DD just got one of the Paris Civ spots. She's a STEM major with moderate interest in history and is excited about getting Civ done in a city that she loves and has wanted to live in since she first visited at age 10. Speaks decent French and I expect she will get out and about and immerse herself outside the classroom. Her academic experience will presumably be somewhere between my two Civ sequences and that'll be good enough.

    BTW, she had to write 2 essays which she treated somewhat like college app essays (including recycling part of her common app essay :D). I had no idea it was that competitive.

    Also, it will not be cheap. The program fee is high ($4,800 which basically includes room), with added administrative fee($675), airfare and expected extra costs, I'm expecting it'll add up to a few thousand. So I'm not thrilled about it all but she is, so that's that.
  • JBStillFlyingJBStillFlying Registered User Posts: 4,988 Senior Member
    Is the $4800 on top of regular quarterly tuition(less fin. aid as applicable) or in lieu of?
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