April 27, 1995
Vol. 14, No. 16

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    From Kyoto to Costa Rica: Learning through living

    "We're pleased as Punch to be in Paris," third-year College students Chris Woolford and David Schacht recently wrote in e-mail to Lewis Fortner, Director of Undergraduate Foreign and Domestic Studies.

    The students, who are participating in one of the University's overseas programs for undergraduates, had sent e-mail to Fortner to apprise him of their current activities and future plans.

    "Dave's taking a photo class, and they just had an exposition at the Foundation of the United States," they wrote. "He is also playing in an orchestra, which is traveling to St. Petersburg (Russia) in April. He's excited because they're giving a concert in the Imperial Chapel. Chris just started an art class with some artists in their studio in Paris. He also found a hockey team (finally). We are both taking an African dance class, and for spring break we plan on touring the Midi by surfboard, then the Alps by snowboard. Next week we're going to see an MC Solaar concert (French rap!) and a play at the Comedie Francaise (THANK YOU Chicago!)."

    While Woolford and Schacht are in the midst of the University's yearlong Paris program, a group of students recently departed for Weimar, Germany, to participate in one of the College's newest overseas programs, a quarter-long language-based course of study leading to completion of the Core curriculum language requirement.

    "Although Chris and David are taking all kinds of classes in their yearlong program at the University of Paris, the students in Weimar are devoting themselves to German language study exclusively," Fortner said. "The Weimar program, in 10 weeks of compressed instruction, advances first-year German students well into their second year. Students live with a German family, they sign a pledge not to speak English after their first week in Weimar, and they spend about 20 hours a week in class."

    Fortner said Weimar is a good place to immerse oneself in German language and culture for two reasons. "Weimar is located in what used to be East Germany," he said. "Unlike West Germany, there's not a lot of English in the air. Students aren't running into people who can translate for them every time they turn around.

    "Secondly, the city holds a special place in German history," Fortner continued. "In addition to its role as the birthplace of the short-lived Weimar Republic after World War I, the city has been a center for writers and artists ranging from Bach to Goethe and Nietzsche. It's a beautiful city of about 70,000 people surrounded by countryside dotted with castles and country houses and history. For a program based in the study of language and culture, it's ideal."

    Eight College students and one graduate instructor in Germanic Studies went to Weimar at the beginning of this quarter. As in most of the University's foreign-study programs, the students remain registered at Chicago, pay regular tuition plus a modest foreign-study administrative fee and retain their normal eligibility for financial aid.

    Currently, about 12 percent of the College population participates in foreign-study opportunities sponsored by the University. Students can select yearlong programs in Paris, in Great Britain at any of eight universities, or in Bologna, Italy; Berlin, Germany; Seville, Spain; or Kyoto, Japan. Quarter-long programs are offered in the Vendee, France, and Heredia, Costa Rica, in addition to Weimar.

    "[College] Dean Boyer takes a special interest in foreign study," Fortner said. "His initiative has led to an increase in our programming, which includes the Costa Rica and Berlin program, a summer program in Paris and, of course, the Weimar program. His support, together with the trend out of economic recession, has enabled increasing numbers of students to take advantage of opportunities to go abroad."

    Foreign-study programs are open to students in all concentrations. Admission to programs is based upon overall record, language preparation and "backbone," Fortner said. "Enterprising students can do things. It takes more than good grades and extracurricular activities to make it in a foreign country. We judge people on their potential to flourish in a foreign academic environment, and we take as many as we think are qualified. There are no set numbers for any of the programs.

    "By allowing students to use their financial aid, we have increased the number of participants in these programs and helped to democratize foreign study," Fortner added. "We've grown considerably since we began 12 years ago with four students in Paris and three in Bologna. Today the world is colonized with University of Chicago programs."

    -- Carmen Marti