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Encourage more students to study abroad

Helen Padden | Thursday, January 28, 2010

 I was shocked and disappointed when I read the article “Notre Dame cancels Innsbruck program” in last Thursday’s Observer (Jan. 21). The program has a special place in my heart because I would not exist without this program. My parents met on this program in the 1975-76 class and became great friends. Also, my twin brother is currently studying in Innsbruck as a member of, apparently, the last class for this beloved program.

This program is a particular gem because in other German-speaking cities, it is difficult to find German-speakers that do not speak English, but Innsbruck is full of people who patiently speak to Americans in German. When in this unintimidating atmosphere for an entire year, a student can really learn the language fluently.

The University has ended a very rich program that not only gives students the opportunity to learn the German language, but also provides a rich cultural experience. I spent Christmas in Austria this year to visit my brother and I glimpsed the community formed on this program. The Innsbruckers have become great friends, have immersed themselves in the Tyrolean culture, and have learned from their diverse friends in the international dorm.

It seems to me that the failure of this program is the result of a lack of encouragement for year-long programs, which allow for increased fluency and cultural immersion. Unfortunately, Notre Dame is stuck in a system where students study abroad junior year for one semester, so students are not looking at year-long opportunities. The University needs to encourage students, even incoming freshmen, to think about studying abroad for a year so they get the experience more of a part-time citizen than a tourist. I think that if more students become inspired to immerse themselves in a foreign country, more will be interested in Innsbruck. It has courses for most majors and only requires two semesters of German, so is a great option for someone who just wants to learn a language and study in Europe. I think that if the University emphasizes year programs in general, interest in Innsbruck would revive.


Helen Padden


Welsh Family Hall

Jan. 27