Differences in gender and social mores prompt the majority of complaints from DIPA participants. Women's studies courses, now offered in London, Harare, and Madrid, can be helpful. "It is important for students to have some knowledge of gender issues in the society in which they are livingif only to avoid serious misunderstandings and danger to themselves," says political science and women's studies professor Marie Provine, who has taught at three DIPA centers. |
The political climate is carefully monitored wherever SU students are studying. "World events naturally have a tremendous influence on our programs," Fried says. "The Chungking program was ended in 1949 as the threat of communism grew. After Tiananmen Square, we canceled a summer program in China. The Gulf War also affected our enrollment."
Five years ago, after faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences, the College for Human Development, and the School of Management expressed interest in a University program in Asia, the Hong Kong program was established. But it wasn't without trepidation. At the time, Hong Kong was still a British colony. That changed in 1997, when China reclaimed the territory it had surrendered to the British in 1842. The University naturally had concerns about how the handover to China would affect the program. "We still felt it was the best place for us to go in Asia," Fried recalls.
While DIPA has an exemplary safety record, Galson's tenure as director has been anything but stress-free. Yet even the most public and tragic of situationsthe 1988 terrorist bombing of Pan Am 103 that claimed the lives of 35 DIPA studentsdid little to damage the program's reputation. "Americans are very resilient," Galson says. "They don't let something like that deter them."
In fact, the next year, the program had its highest enrollment ever. "We sent the message," Cavanagh says, "that we were going forward."
Adapting to Foreign Languages and Customs
One of DIPA's unique characteristics is that there is no language requirement for students. All DIPA centers offer programs for students who have little or no fluency in the native language. Students who want to study in that language can attend a local university with their advisors' approval.
Moss, for instance, had some knowledge of Spanish when she left for Madrid. "Being familiar with the language helped a lot," she says. "In Europe, people who speak the native language are treated differently than those who don't."
Many students must learn to adapt quickly to an unfamiliar way of life, with little or no language training. While the immersion experience effectively forces them to learn enough of the language to get by, many times even those with some fluency are not fully prepared to converse with native speakers. "The hardest thing for me initially in France was the language barrier," Gurian says. "However, as my language skills improved, I felt a sense of accomplishment."
Language barriers or not, most students find ways to make themselves at home. "As far as blending in with Londoners," Palefsky says, "by the end of the semester, most of us had gotten shorter haircuts and longer coats."
"In France, much more emphasis is placed on interpersonal relationships, which I really liked," Gurian adds. "Life moves at a slower pace, which took some getting used to."