At Goucher College, every single student pursuing a degree is expected to study abroad for at least some amount of time. According to the school, there is much to be gained by doing so.
Though Goucher’s study abroad requirement was implemented in 2006, the motivations behind it can be traced back to the school’s founder, the Rev. John Franklin Goucher, said Dr. Matthew Van Hoose, Goucher’s associate vice president for global, career, and community-based learning.
"If you look back at his writings, he's someone who, at that time, believed that greater intercultural understanding, more robust global engagement, would really be one of the keys to addressing the world's great problems in his time,” Hoose said. “We believe that our students need to be able to successfully, sensitively, and compassionately navigate social and cultural boundaries in order to be successful in their careers and engaged citizens."
The Baltimore institution proudly boasts that 100% of its students graduate with international experience. To make that a reality, it partners with several international institutions worldwide and offers a number of different study abroad options for its students – 100 opportunities in more than 40 countries, according to its website.
Students can choose to spend an entire Fall or Spring semester abroad, in places such as Finland, Brazil, Estonia, Vietnam, and Australia. Once there, for “comparable” academics, room, and board, students pay the same rates that they would pay if they were studying on-campus at Goucher for the semester. And financial aid packages that apply on-campus follow them as well, Hoose said.
"What we find, is that gives students some predictability,” Hoose said. “That gives them free range to choose between our wide variety of semester-long programs, knowing that there's not going to be some sort of large, unexpected, or hidden cost. We don't have any tuition surcharges associated with our programs."
To note, the students in these semester-long programs are responsible for their flights and travel costs, but Goucher’s Office of Global Education takes such costs into account when divvying out scholarships, Hoose said in an email.
Goucher senior Diego Toledo, who is pursuing a double major in political science and international relations, chose to fulfill his study abroad requirement in Strasbourg, France, a city near the country’s border with Germany.
As a student also seeking a minor in French, Toledo spent Spring 2023 immersing himself in French culture, history, and language through the IFE - The Strasbourg Field Study and Internship Program. Because he received free tuition, room, and board at Goucher, he only had to pay for food and his flights, he said.
“I think I had one of the best times of my life,” Toledo said. “The classes were in French. ... I made a lot of local friends. I explored the city and now I know it [like] the back of my hand.”
Instead of traveling during the school year, students can also pursue shorter-term programs that take place either in the summer or January in regions such as Scotland, Uruguay, Cuba, and Indonesia. These programs come with their own program fee, but “normally include most or all transportation” and have scholarship supports available as well, according to Hoose.
A key part of Goucher’s approach to its study abroad requirement is proactiveness, Hoose said. The school wants to be proactive in its discussions with students about if and how credits from abroad transfer back before they select a program. And thorough talks beforehand about various hurdles in students’ ways are also encouraged.
"We really place a lot of emphasis on giving students all the information that they might need to make an informed decision about which study abroad option is right for them, partially based on financial considerations. We really believe in that early, proactive, and transparent approach,” Hoose said. “What we find is that when we're able to start those conversations early in a student's time at Goucher, almost always we're able to figure out a solution.
“It may not be the study abroad option that any of us had first-in-mind when we started the conversation, but as we weigh different factors in relation to students' goals, circumstances in life, and intersecting social and cultural identities, that's where we're really able to get to a place where students are making a decision that is the most likely to be a good one for them."
Despite its extensive practice in sending students abroad, however, the school does not have many students coming in from other countries. It’s a shortcoming that Goucher is in the process of trying to address, said Goucher President Kent Devereaux, who took the helm in 2019.
Currently, approximately 5% of Goucher students are international students, a step up from the 2% in 2019. The goal is to reach 15% by 2028, Devereaux said.