International studies stronger than ever

Author: Arts and Letters

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“Our campus is in South Bend, Ind.; our classroom is the world.”

This catchphrase, first applied in 1997, has never been truer than it is today.

This fall the University added new international study programs in Hong Kong, Cambridge, England, and Leuven, Belgium (open to students enrolled in the seminary program, Old College), bringing to 40 the number of study abroad programs offered in 20 countries worldwide during the academic year and summer. A unique faculty-led program in Jerusalem at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute will begin in summer 2009, and another program will join the line-up next fall Classics students will have an opportunity to study in Sicily.

The percentage of Notre Dame undergraduate students who study abroad consistently is among the highest in the nation. This year the University had the seventh-highest percentage among American research universities of students participating in study abroad programs, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE), which recently released its annual Open Doors report. The number expanded to 58.9 percent from 2005 to 2006.

“We are a leader in international studies,” said Kathleen Opel, director of the Office of International Studies (OIS). “When students apply to Notre Dame, they often list our study abroad programs as a reason for wanting to come here.”

Internationalism on campus is a strength rooted in tradition. For more than 40 years, the University has provided opportunities for undergraduate students to live and study abroad as part of their regular curriculum. From medical internships with doctors in Puebla, Mexico, to a focus on poverty and development in Santiago, Chile, international study programs are organized to reflect the University’s commitment to learning, service and faith.

And Notre Dame has become more strategic about improving its international tradition. There’s a new push to emphasize opportunities for research, and the OIS is cultivating relationships with faculty who now teach a revolving door of international summer programs. These enable students whose majors or other activities, such as student government, athletics and ROTC, might preclude participation in study abroad programs during the academic year.

Because the University partners with the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES), which maintains study abroad infrastructures around the world, faculty can teach abroad over the summer without the burden of administration.

“When you teach abroad, you have a multi-faceted appreciation of the students and they of you,” said Julia Douthwaite, assistant provost for international studies and professor of French. "It’s really a unique environment for faculty-student interaction. Our goal is to recruit four different faculty members each summer and in the last few years they have been very enthusiastic and, in fact, competitive for positions.

“I think we’ve been so successful because our profile of study abroad is different than at other universities,” Douthwaite said. “We tell incoming freshmen to select a foreign language, take it each semester and view study abroad as a stepping stone toward a brilliant career. Because there are so many opportunities here for research through the Kellogg, Keough-Naughton, Kroc and Nanovic Institutes, as well as in the various colleges, study abroad students often return to their countries of choice during fall, spring or winter breaks or over the summer for long-term research and internships. They then graduate with entire packages of scholarly excellence, in fact, international dossiers.”

Chair of Notre Dame’s strategic planning committee for internationalism, Douthwaite hopes to increase the number of faculty and student exchanges and applauds the Kellogg Institute for continually playing host to numerous faculty fellows from foreign countries, who then recruit on campus for their graduate programs.

Hoping to promote more graduate exchanges by demonstrating to faculty how to cultivate their international relationships, Douthwaite arranged a new program after serving as the director of the study abroad program in Angers, France. While regularly attending meetings where doctoral students presented their research at l’Universit de Rennes 2 Haute Bretagne, she befriended numerous students and faculty. The relationships led to lectures by Rennes 2 faculty at Notre Dame, and this fall the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures launched a graduate exchange program at Rennes 2, which is the most important research center and higher education community for the humanities and social sciences in Western France.

Marianne Peracchio, a student in Notre Dame’s PhD in Literature Program, currently is in residence at Rennes 2, and French student Marie Sanquer is studying French literature and second-language teaching methodology, as well as serving as a writing tutor at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame has been recognized as a top school in U.S. News and World Report for “outstanding” study abroad programs and honored by NAFSA: Association of International Educators in its “Internationalizing the Campus” campaign for making available study abroad across the curriculum and for commitment to service and internships abroad.

Notre Dame’s London Law School program remains the only abroad branch of an American Law School, and the School of Architecture, through its year of study in Rome, is the only U.S. architecture program that requires a year of international study. More than 300 engineers have participated in Summer Engineering in London since 1988, and science instruction in the London and Puebla programs provides the rare opportunity for pre-professional studies (pre-med) students to study abroad and still prepare for the Medical College Admissions.

Future plans include niche programs for science and engineering students in Switzerland and India and an enhanced study/internship program for engineers in Karlsruhe, Germany.

“We’re among the elite in American education on the cutting edge of where higher education needs to go,” Douthwaite said. “We see really terrific things ahead.”

Contact: Julia Douthwaite, 574-631-5203, , Kathleen Opel, 574-631-9525,

Originally published by Shannon Chapla at on December 12, 2008.