Dozens of Stanford instructors and global employees are feeling a great sense of relief this academic year now that the Bing Overseas Studies Program has resumed normal operations worldwide. BOSP kicked off the year with 288 Stanford undergraduates taking part in autumn quarter study away programs, while more than 170 undergraduates are studying away this winter quarter. The reopening of all BOSP programs includes Stanford in Istanbul, which last ran in 2015 in partnership with Koç University , and BOSP’s new Stanford in Hong Kong program hosted by The Chinese University of Hong Kong, as well as short-term faculty-led programs scheduled to run this summer.
“The pandemic brought with it the biggest challenge that BOSP has faced,” said Aron Rodrigue, Burke Family Director of the BOSP. “However, we now feel re-energized in our strong commitment to providing transformative educational experiences that inspire students to embrace new challenges in complex global settings.”
Though the effects of the pandemic persist worldwide, Stanford undergraduates have been eager to continue their education through experiential learning in new environments. For junior Abigail Romo, an engineering major, studying away this past autumn quarter in Australia reignited her passion for learning.
“After three school years of COVID-tainted learning, being part of a program that emphasizes place-based and hands-on learning has brought back my excitement about school,” said Romo.
Students in the program learn about Australian culture while studying the enormous diversity of coral reefs and rainforests. The mobile program led by University of Queensland and Stanford University faculty takes students to research stations on the Great Barrier Reef and Moreton Bay, to K’gari the world’s largest sand island, and around the city of Sydney.
“Being able to travel from place to place, meet and connect with locals, and celebrate all the wonderful parts of sharing space with friends and teachers makes me appreciate academics and all the wonders of learning. Every conversation taught me something new about ecology, life, and everything in between.”
Among the first impacted and the last to recover
BOSP was forced to shut down global operations as soon as the severity of the pandemic became clear, starting with bringing home students in its Florence program in late February 2020. By early March 2020, BOSP had repatriated students from all global centers before the conclusion of winter quarter and then proceeded to suspend all its spring quarter offerings. While program plans continued for the next two years amidst the uncertainty of pandemic recovery, each quarter was met with a new slew of disruptive cancellations and disappointment among students and participating faculty.
The university vaccination requirement in late spring of 2021 was the first step in resuming BOSP offerings. The successful restart of programming in Oxford in the summer of 2021 was a turning point, followed by the incremental restart of programs in Paris, Berlin, Madrid, Florence, Hong Kong, and New York.
“We were the first program to suspend its in-person activities at the very start of the pandemic. Today, it gives us enormous joy to have a full house of students who are excited to be studying in Italy and who embrace all our program has to offer,” said Ermelinda M. Campani, Spogli Family Director of the Breyer Center for Overseas Studies in Florence.
By autumn 2022, programs in Australia, Kyoto, Santiago, Istanbul, and Cape Town had resumed operations along with BOSP’s short-term faculty-led summer programs in which Stanford faculty host a study away program in a location of their choosing that ties to a disciplinary interest of theirs.
Across the programs, the shutdown served as a period of reflection and allowed staff to plan for a renewed set of curricular offerings. “As the only center on the African continent, we are thrilled that students can once again be challenged by theoretical and empirical academic work emanating from the global South,” said Adelene Africa, Director of Stanford in Cape Town. “In addition, our newly-launched organizational projects offer students the exciting opportunity to learn from civil society experts engaged in socially responsive work.”
Students return to hands-on study away
Regardless of a student’s academic path, all BOSP programs share one thing in common: They provide an immersive learning experience that nurtures students’ academic, personal, and professional growth. Each quarter, prominent members of the local academic community and a Stanford faculty member teach courses in each BOSP program location. Stanford professors serving as faculty in residence teach classes in their own disciplines, developing courses that incorporate unique features of the local culture and environment or that provide comparative perspectives on a particular topic.
Mykel Kochenderfer, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics, recently served as faculty in residence in Oxford. This summer, he will also teach “Engineering and Technology in India,” a short-term program that studies the ways in which technology is developed within various political, economic, and cultural contexts.
“I feel that some of my most important teaching moments have been overseas. The experiences we have had have deepened our understanding of how different engineering approaches can address sustainability goals in the context of different cultures,” Kochenderfer said.
For students, studying away applies a real-world context to classroom learning. Kyle Creighton, who participated in the Stanford in Santiago program, says there is nothing like learning Spanish and Chile’s history from renowned faculty while simultaneously experiencing the city and its culture.
“I can’t wait to go back,” said Creighton. “I really enjoyed the academic nature of it because the courses were rigorous. I’m grateful for that because at the end of the trip, I wrote a 15-page paper in Spanish, and I had never even written a full-length essay in Spanish. I still keep my notebook so that if I ever want to revisit the content, I can.”
Beyond the classroom, several BOSP programs provide an internship component. Stanford in New York (which became part of BOSP in 2019) presents students with distinctive opportunities for engagement with one of the world’s most dynamic cities. Students can explore their studies and real-world application by pursuing a 10-week internship, working four days a week in an area of interest in a wide variety of fields organized around particular industries or themes. Through an intensive academic quarter of study, reflective practice, and experiential learning, students hone their intellectual skills and capacities, develop their abilities as adaptive learners and enlarge their creative confidence. Stanford in Berlin and Stanford in Kyoto also offer students immersive internship experiences during the summer, and other programs, including Stanford in Madrid, Stanford in Paris, and Stanford in Florence, offer part-time internships.
Ultimately, every Stanford undergraduate should give serious consideration to studying away. Rodrigue, who has been BOSP’s faculty director since 2019, underscored that a BOSP experience should be an integral part of every undergraduate’s academic journey. “We hear from students who take part in BOSP how much value they believe it brings to their Stanford education. The combination of rigorous courses taught by on-site instructors along with cultural immersion activities and, in some cases, internships leads not only to a memorable chapter in students’ lives but an experience that connects them to the world beyond Stanford’s campus where they can apply knowledge in new settings and truly discover the transformative power of global education.”
View upcoming BOSP application deadlines on its website.