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Colleges Expanding Overseas Studies

January 24, 1999

PARIS (AP) _ With U.S. corporations briskly engaged in the global economy, can America’s colleges and universities be far behind?

The University of Maryland runs a full-scale residential campus in Germany. Boston University has an expanding foothold in Paris. And New York University President Jay Oliva says his institution is striving to become ``the quintessential global university.″

Time was when American students overseas spent a carefree year learning a language and absorbing culture at a foreign university, with a bit of fun travel on the side.

The Junior Year Abroad is still alive and well, but things have changed.

More and more U.S. universities are offering their own programs and courses rather than just registering their students at foreign universities and giving them credit toward their U.S. degrees.

Some American schools have set up their own satellite programs, with facilities for semester or yearlong stays at regular campuses, and some even offer full four-year programs leading to undergraduate degrees, plans that also are attracting foreign students.

Professional and graduate programs overseas are on the rise, too, especially those offering MBA degrees.

The new approach reflects the changing demands of American students who are concentrating on skills for the job market. Although enrollment in language study has fallen back home at U.S. schools, an increasing number of students are going abroad to study foreign languages, cultures and business practices.

Just over 64,000 Americans enrolled in study abroad programs in Europe in the 1996-97 school year, compared to 47,000 a decade earlier, the Institute for International Education in New York says.

For students in Boston University’s Paris program, school is a handful of basement rooms where they attend classes and check their e-mail.

The facilities look a lot like those on Commonwealth Avenue back in Boston _ except for the smoky cafe on the corner and the nearby Metro line that whooshes past the Eiffel Tower.

But the program doesn’t leave much time for sipping cafe au lait, or even seeing the sights. After completing three courses in eight weeks, BU students set off on an internship, where some work 40 to 50 hours a week in a totally French environment.

``The main objective for our students to come to France is professional, not just because French is a pretty language,″ said Gerald Honigsblum, director of the BU program.

The number of students at Boston University’s Paris program has tripled over the last four years to about 60 students, largely because of the internship.

``What comes out is better French. We’ve demystified the acquisition of French,″ Honigsblum said.

Maintaining an independent overseas program is prestigious but expensive, and many U.S. universities end up sharing space, especially in expensive cities.

In Spain, the International Institute houses programs run by top American schools, including New York University, Middlebury College and Vassar, in a 90-year-old building with a 75,000-volume library, cafeteria and garden in downtown Madrid.

In Paris, American college students still troop through Reid Hall, which houses about a dozen U.S. study programs in the heart of the Left Bank.

Most American universities regard overseas programs as a supplement _ not a substitute _ to a U.S.-based degree program, but some have started full-fledged satellite programs abroad.

The University of Maryland is one of the few American institutions to have a complete residential campus in Europe, at Schwaebish Gmuend in southwestern Germany. Many of its students are non-American, who want an American education without going all the way to the United States.

Kunan Arora, 20, chose the University of Maryland because he feels he’s getting a more practical education than in Germany or his native India, where he says much of the learning is theoretical.

A business management major, Arora also says he likes the international atmosphere at Schwaebish Gmuend.

``There are so many cultures and countries represented here,″ he said. ``To learn about them ... to understand their language will be really helpful to me later in the business world.″

Studying at U.S.-affiliated programs abroad is also good value.

``The students get more for their money,″ said Elena Granger Carrasco, director of New York University’s campus in Madrid. ``They save money on room and board and have all the advantages of living and studying abroad.″

Perhaps nowhere is the hunger for American-style education greater than in the former Soviet bloc, where until the collapse of communism, exchange programs were severely restricted. Eastern European students had virtually no chance of receiving a U.S. education.

With this school year, the State University of New York opened a program in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, offering a four-year degree in business or public administration. Of the 62 students enrolled, 50 are Czechs and just two are Americans.

``A lot of our students spent a year in an American high school and they consider our program to be more competitive for their future,″ said Lenka Dvorakova, the Prague-based administrator.

But programs in Russia have trouble because of chronic political and economic uncertainty, as well as crime.

In September, the financial crisis in Russia forced Stanford University to close its 5-year-old Moscow campus after the school was unable to convert dollars into rubles to pay its bills.

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