Earlham College students participate in international learning experiences at a rate that far exceeds their peers and might defy common sense for those unfamiliar with how national benchmarking data is reported.
With 178 percent of students participating in study abroad programs, the College ranks third in the nation among all baccalaureate granting colleges and universities, according to the Institute on International Education’s 2020 Open Doors report. This report, which is sponsored by the U.S. State Department, divides the number of students participating in a credit-bearing study abroad programs by the size of its graduating class in ranking each institution.
“Our percentage is so high, over 100 percent, because we have so many students who go abroad more than once,” said Roger Adkins, the executive director of Earlham’s Center for Global and Career Education. “At Earlham it’s common for a student to go on a short-term faculty led program one year and do a semester-long program in another year. Some may go three times or more if they do a credit-bearing internship out of the country. These figures don’t even include our students who participate in domestic programs across the U.S.”
In a normal year not derailed by a global pandemic, about two-thirds of the student body participates in Earlham’s off-campus programs, which are located on every continent—except Antarctica. The national average is about 11 percent.
“Our off-campus programs are deeply integrated into the curriculum and a big part of the culture here,” said Jennifer Lewis, senior director of off-campus programs. “These experiences don’t happen in a vacuum. Our academic advisers often ask students not if, but where are you going? It’s the norm, not an exception.”
The College has been careful to limit costs as a barrier whenever possible. “Other schools obviously offer internships, short-term faculty-led excursions and off-campus study, but students usually go into a lot of debt to do all of that,” Adkins notes. “What we offer is very rare.”
Grant-based funding offers Earlham students opportunities that are financed up to the full amount of the excursion.
The College’s Epic Advantage program and an ongoing grant from the Freeman Foundation are catalysts for sending students all over the world on funded cultural immersion and career-discernment experiences, including internships, faculty-student collaborative research, and community-based projects.
Thanks to the generosity of donors, all Earlham students are eligible for the Epic Advantage grant.
Semester abroad expenses kept low
Semester-long programs are covered by the normal cost of tuition with added institutional support that covers program fees and cost-of-living expenses. “We assure every student that wants to do a semester or a year of off-campus study can do that for about the same pricing as being on campus,” Adkins said. For these types of programs, students are responsible for the cost of airfare, passports, visas, and personal spending, but in some cases scholarships are available to offset those expenses.”
Eighteen semester-long programs, several of which are led by Earlham professors, are available to students for the 2021-22 academic year after a year-long pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Longstanding programs in New Zealand, London, Japan, Spain, India and the U.S./Mexico border are available with new programs in Ghana, Thailand and Boston debuting in the fall or spring.
Students are eligible for semester-long experiences as early as their sophomore year and can participate in any program, regardless of their major or course of study. Required pre- and post-departure courses help students get the most out of their experience.
“Students from virtually any major can go on any program,” Lewis said. “While this takes planning for some majors with tight requirements, it can be done. The reason is because students earn a full semester’s worth of upper-level academic credit for our programs, and those credits can apply to general education requirements as well as some major requirements.
“We think of these as true liberal arts programs, and we love it when there are many different majors on our programs because it makes a richer experience for all involved.”
In addition to strong off-campus study programs, international students comprise about 20 percent of the student body. The IIE currently ranks Earlham 34th for the number of international students enrolled at the College.
International students are attracted to Earlham for its nationally recognized classroom experience, affordability and its mission of producing catalysts for good in a changing world. The College’s international student advisers provide mentorship to these students throughout their time at Earlham College, and serve as a source of advice, support, and information on matters of immigration regulations, cultural adaptation, and practical concerns.
“These recent rankings are evidence that Earlham is a leader in global learning and remains committed to ensuring that every graduate is ready for life in the global world of this century,” Adkins said.