Simran Malik, a second year international affairs major at Northeastern University, was contemplating studying abroad for a semester at The London School of Economics, but was undecided if she would go the traditional route or go on a “dialogue of civilization”.
After weighing her options, she decided to study in Spain. “It was too much work,” she said, referring to the credit transfer and housing process involved with the traditional study abroad option.
-View from the top of La Giralda in Seville, Spain. Photo by Simran Malik.
Students who wish to study abroad can choose between a traditional study abroad program, which can last a whole semester or even six months, and a dialogue of civilization, a faculty-led program that lasts five to six weeks and is focused on issues that affect students at the local and global level.
According to Lane Marder, who has been a global experience coordinator since 2015, to study abroad traditionally, students have to pay $24,280 plus fees. The program cost includes: NU tuition and international security and emergency support fees.
Approximately 1,300 students are on a dialogue for each summer session according to Marder; and about 200 students per term on a traditional study abroad program.
To go on a dialogue of civilization, students have to pay $12,000 and fees that can range from $0-3,500 associated with the program. As opposed to the traditional study abroad program; dialogues include airfare, housing, and excursion trips.
Denis Sullivan, a political science and international affairs professor at Northeastern, started the dialogue program 25 years ago when he took students to the Middle East to learn the Arabic language.
“Since then it [dialogue of civilization program] has evolved to what we know it is today,” said Marder.
Malachi Hernandez, a second year political science and communications major said, “I chose to go on a dialogue because I knew it was a shorter period than an actual study abroad.” He continued, “I just didn’t feel comfortable to be away four to five months, because I would get homesick.”
-Malachi posing in Greece. Photo by Malachi Hernandez.
In addition, while on a dialogue, students go abroad with 12-14 other Northeastern students and the program is led by a faculty member.
Michelle Carr, a communications professor at Northeastern’s College of Arts, Media and Design, leads the English Culture and Documentary Filmmaking dialogue in London, England and Edinburg, Scotland.
The dialogue has two focuses for the students, the first: for students to interact with the local citizens to produce and edit a 10-12-minute documentary on the British culture; the second: to familiarize students on the history and culture of England through site lecturers in museum and landmarks.
Carr, who has been leading the dialogue since 2011, has seen an increase in the dialogue programs offered. Northeastern went from having about 40 programs to now offering 75. Carr attributes that to the benefits of the dialogue.
“The time commitment involved,” she said, “it’s only five to six weeks . . . if it’s your first time studying abroad, you’re afraid of committing being away from home that long.”
The time commitment is not the only thing pulling students to go on a dialogue, but also the additional adventures involved.
Hernandez went to the Greece: Then and Now dialogue, which took place in various parts of the country including: Athens, Santorini, Crete, and Rhodes. He enjoyed his dialogue because he was living what he was learning about.
“We were able to learn a lot about the Greek economic crisis,” he said, “but then also see the effects firsthand, right after you leave the classroom.”
Malik went on the Spanish Language and Culture dialogue that took part in Seville and Barcelona, Spain. She also liked how she was able to practice the Spanish language beyond the classroom. Malik lived with a host family, which pushed her to put into practice what she was learning.
“It challenged me to use my Spanish more,” she said.
-Simran embracing the traditional flamenco attire. Photo by Simran Malik
Going abroad, regardless of which program a student chooses, benefits them because it helps them grow.
“You have to learn on your feet,” Carr said, “you’re encountered with new and different challenging environments,” she said. “It just helps you to grow as a person, mature.”
Hernandez credits his trip to Greece with helping him become more appreciative of his opportunities.
“It shifted my way of appreciation,” he said, “seeing the poverty over there and correlating the poverty here in America, it’s two different types of poverty.”
Northeastern’s goal is to get every student to have an experience abroad, they want their students to be international and gain knowledge through new experiences.
“The most rewarding thing is the growth of the students, they become different people, and become excited to do new things,” Carr said.
Northeastern is not the only university that provides faculty-led study abroad programs in the summer. Other schools offer tem too, but operate under a different system.
“The name -- dialogue of civilizations -- is unique to Northeastern,” said Marder. “It’s the root of our values and what’s important about the experience of doing a dialogue . . . and that is why students are choosing to go on a dialogue versus a traditional program.”
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