Over 60 Years of Studying Abroad
A group of young Arcadia University women bicycling across Europe in the summer of 1948 paved the way for generations of students to study abroad. Sixty years later, the things those Arcadia students learned while experiencing other cultures are more relevant than ever in a rapidly changing global economy, and increasing numbers of Arcadia students are studying abroad as an integral core component of their education.
Arcadia is one of the oldest study abroad programs in the nation, celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2008. U.S. News & World Report ranks Arcadia as one of the best study abroad programs in the nation.
Today, about half of Arcadia’s undergraduates earn credits in a foreign country. Nearly nine in 10 freshmen used their passports in 2006-07, most in Arcadia’s distinctive spring break Preview programs to London, Scotland and Spain, and Italy for Transfer Students. And a newly designed curriculum requires all undergraduates to have a firsthand cross-cultural experience and reflective component, either through study abroad or in the United States. Arcadia’s College of Global Studies has grown to serving 3,000 students from other college and universities.
Where in the World Did It Start?
During the summer of 1948, Jack Wallace, a newly hired economics instructor, and his wife set sail from New York with 17 Beaver College students, hoping to study the economic effects of World War II and the post-war rebuilding efforts in Europe. They arrived in Southhampton and purchased used Royal Air Force surplus bicycles. After traveling around England, they crossed the Channel and continued biking through Belgium and Paris, ending their eight-week sojourn in Paris.
Like generations to follow, they lived and learned abroad, but they did it on a budget of just $2 a day, sometimes biking 60 miles at a time. Wallace taught classes aboard ship enroute as well as on location in Oxford, London and Paris. Campus folklore has Beaver College women slogging through the rain on their heavy bikes.
“This was a pioneering and bold effort,” according to the History of Beaver College and Arcadia University, published in 2003 to celebrate the University’s sesquicentennial. “In June of 1948, few other American colleges or universities had resurrected the study abroad programs that the World War had interrupted. Just two schools had been able to generate interest in overseas study, secure the necessary permissions, and make overseas arrangements capable of supporting the resumption of such undertakings. Only Beaver College was able to launch a new one. Professor Wallace developed his idea into an actual program during an era when international communications relied upon the postal service, when neither the telegraph nor the telephone was used for anything short of a true emergency.”
The study abroad experience was repeated in successive summers and expanded to include more of France and other European countries, additional miles made possible by the rebuilt railway system. As Europe, aided by the Marshall Plan, began to heal from the war, the academic focus shifted to “a deliberate effort to see, discuss and understand European art,” and interest in the program continued to grow.
In the 1960s, the University began offering access to its study abroad programs during the regular semester at City of London College to students from other colleges. “Full credit for work done in England was readily accepted by Beaver College for each participant,” notes the University history, “and an institution was born—the Beaver College The College of Global Studies.” Accredited accounting for course credits remains a cornerstone of Arcadia’s College of Global Studies today, along with a worldwide network of professional staff, including in-country staff in host countries who support students while they are abroad.
In addition to the hundreds of Arcadia students who study abroad each year, the Center now serves more than 3,000 students a year from other colleges and universities. And what began at City of London College is now a menu of more than 100 programs around the world, expanding recently to China and soon to India.