Of this year's sophomore class, more than half have applied to study off campus next year. With so many Bowdoin students choosing to study away each year, one could hardly call us insular. We boast a wide range of off-campus study options, including destinations from Great Britain to Sri Lanka. Those who go abroad will inevitably be exposed to new cultures and challenges. However, as studying abroad becomes increasingly popular, we should be increasingly wary of considering it the best choice for all students. While the experiences gained studying abroad are valuable, they are not necessarily more valuable than the ones gained by spending all eight semesters at Bowdoin.
The motivations to study abroad are as varied as the destinations to choose from. Some students wish to take advantage of the opportunity to study at an institution that specializes in a certain field. Other students decide to go abroad to immerse themselves in foreign culture. And, inevitably, some students opt to exchange a semester of rigorous study at Bowdoin for a few months of partying in Europe with other Americans. Whatever the reasons for going, the chance to visit a new place, be exposed to new intellectual perspectives, or have a good time are just a few of the potential benefits. Leaving behind friends and family for a semester is an intense challenge, one that should not be dismissed. However, some students feel pressure from Bowdoin, peers, and popular college culture to study away, even if they aren't sure of their goals or motivations for doing so. Instead of thinking that studying abroad is the default way to spend junior year, it should be a decision that is made actively after careful deliberation.
Bowdoin is an excellent institution, and there are few other places in the world that offer such a rich course of study with motivated peers and a dedicated faculty. Furthermore, junior year is a time when many people have finally forged strong relationships with friends and faculty or become deeply engaged in academic passions. For some, it hardly seems the time to disrupt a good stride. If the goal is cultural immersion, it may make just as much sense to postpone travel plans until after graduation.
While junior year may be the perfect time to experience another culture and deal with the uncertainties of life in a foreign country, it is by no means the only time to do so. We are young, and we have the rest of our lives to wander the world. And, after all, we have only eight short semesters at Bowdoin.The editorial represents the majority view of The Bowdoin Orient's editorial board, which comprises Nick Day, Nat Herz, Will Jacob, Mary Helen Miller, and Cati Mitchell.