Change in Study Abroad Model

Would Mark Zuckerberg have created Facebook if he had spent his freshman year in Barcelona instead of on campus in Cambridge?

According to an article by Anjali Athavely of the WSJ, more and more freshman are beginning to go abroad. As one who spent my Jr. year abroad (in Osaka, Japan) and lived with a family, I cannot even conceive of how different my experience in Ann Arbor and college would have been had I not spent freshman year in a huge dorm on campus? If I had not attended my first Michigan game and watched Desmond Howard win the Heisman?

As I read this article I thought about what this trend means for the campus entrepreneur. Both as students who may go abroad as freshman and won’t have access to all of the entrepreneurial tools that an American campus offers and also in terms of understanding what is different about students and schools that led to study abroad options for freshman. From the article,

But schools say these programs provide a more globally focused education. As the world economy becomes increasingly intertwined, they argue, overseas experience is an increasingly important credential. The programs also appeal to students in majors — such as the sciences — that offer less flexibility in studying abroad during junior and senior years, since they typically offer course credit for the general requirements that freshmen need to fill. In the past, students who studied abroad were primarily liberal-arts majors.

New York University already offers freshmen students in its general-studies program the option of spending their first year in Florence, Paris or London, in addition to the school’s New York City campus. In fall 2009, NYU expects to offer the option to other freshmen and allow them to apply directly to the study-abroad programs when applying for admission.

Syracuse University will offer a first-semester program for freshmen in Florence, Italy, this fall. The University of Mississippi is launching a study-abroad program in Edinburgh, Scotland, for freshman students next fall. Florida State offers out-of-state freshmen an added financial incentive: Participants in the program pay in-state tuition for the rest of their time as undergraduates at the university.

Is this just an American version of the gap year between HS and college except it lets colleges lock in students and high tuition and it gives students a safety net where they earn credit? Would we all be better off if Zuckerberg had drank sangria and chased European girls his freshman year?

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