As an Admissions Officer, I answer many questions about study abroad. Studying off-campus seems to be one of those “admissions buzzwords,” and an increasing number of students from a variety of disciplines see international experience as integral to their college experience. It’s no surprise–in our rapidly globalizing world, it’s more important than ever to be a global citizen able to engage with a variety of perspectives.
Luckily, St. Olaf has a long tradition of fostering a global perspective. In fact, for the seventh straight year in the row, St. Olaf sent more students abroad than any other liberal arts college in the United States. While the study abroad experience is one fantastic part of a global education, St. Olaf students are pushed to think globally before they ever board a plane.
Developing an international lens is built right into the St. Olaf curriculum. All students, regardless of major, take a foreign language and two courses that focus on multicultural issues both on the domestic and global level. These courses push students to develop:
“…the ability to reflect critically on their own cultural experience and the diverse cultural experience of others as well as on their understanding of themselves in relation to others.”
-St. Olaf Academic Catalog
Outside of the academic material, the students participating in the discussion come from varied backgrounds and perspectives. St. Olaf students represent all fifty states and 86 countries, and they all bring their different backgrounds into discussions both inside and outside the classroom. This is one of the many benefits to attending a college that encourages students to live and learn in community!
When class is over, many students participate in one of St. Olaf’s hundreds of clubs. Several of these clubs focus specifically on diversity awareness and celebration, including the Cultural Union for Black Expression (CUBE), Gay, Lesbian, or Whatever (GLOW), ¡Presente!, Hmong Cultural Outreach (HCO), and Celebrate Southeast Asia! (CSA). In addition to offering a space for students to discuss important issues like race and representation, these clubs also host fantastic events. Check out this example from CSA’s 2015 Diwali celebration, which is the Hindu festival of lights celebrating good’s triumph over evil.
In many ways, studying abroad offers an irreplaceable opportunity to learn about and experience another culture. However, St. Olaf’s globally focused liberal arts education, combined with a vibrant student community, helps students expand their perspectives beyond the slopes of the Hill.