Both study abroad and historical study involve trying to understand the behavior and values of people operating in circumstances very different from our own. Historians often say, “the past is a foreign country.” When we immerse ourselves in earlier times, we have to perform the same exercise we do when abroad: work our way into minds and situations unfamiliar to us. In the midst of another country or culture, we find ourselves asking historical questions. Where did this practice come from? Why do the people here speak this particular dialect? Why do they dislike the folks across the river so much? Even if your main interest as a history major is the United States, experience abroad will help you see American history in new ways, and give you some distance from the institutions and practices you take for granted.
With Department approval, students may apply up to two study-abroad courses to the History major for a semester’s study, three courses for a year’s study. These courses almost always transfer at the 200 level. So expect to do your 199, your two 300-level colloquia, and your 400 research seminar here. The 199 should be behind you before you go.
Choosing a Program
In choosing a program, be advised that our exchange programs in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the Americas tend to have solid offerings in History. Programs in other regions are less consistent. But don’t let that necessarily deter you from going to those places. The History faculty can help you find ways to coordinate less conventional programs with the history major. And don’t forget that mastering a foreign language opens access to all sorts of documentary evidence that will remain closed to you if English is all you know.
The key is to consult with the history department chair, your advisor, faculty you know well, and fellow students who are or who have been abroad about which programs will best suit your needs.