Honors Away
by Karen Wolf

Foreign study for honors students makes for a wordly U.

Cambridge made a believer out of U senior Seth Johnson.

About two years ago, Johnson, a finance major who was working toward an honors degree at the time, read a brochure about the Honors Program's Foreign Study Scholarship opportunity. "I said, 'I want to do that,'" he recalls.

One of two honors students who qualified for the Summer 1997 trip, Johnson spent six weeks of study at Cambridge University in England where he delved into the nuances of Shakespearean plays and the lyrical charm of Romantic poetry. As part of the Honors Program, he was also able to work one-on-one with a Cambridge professor, churning out an essay a week while developing a close intellectual relationship with his instructor.

Johnson, now 23, returned a changed man. He added an English major to his finance major, and plans to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship this fall for graduate work in England next year. His address book is filled with the names of new international friends, and he's gained a new appreciation for European history, too. "We were able to experience a higher-education atmosphere just like people did 300 years ago," he says of the historic institution.

"I feel so happy and lucky to have been considered not only for the Honors Program but for the Cambridge trip," he adds. "It was such an awesome experience."

For 10 years, the Foreign Study Scholarship Program has provided qualified honors students the chance to study abroad at an extremely discounted rate, thanks to scholarship funds which can reduce the total travel costs by about one-third."That's a real attraction," says Honors Program Assistant Director Esther Radinger, who started organizing the trips in 1988.

All non-honors undergraduate and graduate students in good standing have the chance to study abroad during the summer or the school year. Trips are coordinated through the International Center, which helps students select the country they'd like to visit there are nearly 20 from which to choose and the courses in which they'd like to enroll. The International Center, which awards several Liberal Education Study Abroad Scholarships to select participants each year, also helps students transfer their earned credits back to the U.

Honors students who would like to study abroad for honors credit are also able to qualify for a handful of scholarships awarded to Honors Program participants. Funds are provided by the Eccles Foundation, Hiatt Endowment, and Michael Foundation, among other sources.

The honors scholarships can make the difference between paying $6,240 for a six-week stay in Cambridge and $4,160 for the same trip. The costs cover airfare, meals, and lodging, plus 12 hours of course credit.

The Honors Program at the U is "like a liberal arts program within a large university," Radinger says. Class sizes are generally small, with about 20 students each. Students almost 800 this year must have a GPA of at least 3.4 and take both sequenced and individual courses, some of which can be applied toward the U's liberal education requirement. Successful completion of the program earns students an honors degree at graduation.

The demanding work required of Honors Program students is expected when they travel abroad, as well, Radinger says.

At Cambridge, students register for two or three courses with the Cambridge Board of Extra-Mural Studies' International Summer School Programme. In addition, they participate in a program of closely supervised study, working individually under the guidance of a tutor to produce six essays. International Center Director Bill Barnhart MS'71 usually accompanies the students and serves as their mentor and U contact.

This summer, the U Honors Program offered scholarships for two overseas programs: the Cambridge program, which hosted two honors students from July 4 to August 15, and a Greece program, which hosted seven honors students and 10 non-honors students from June 17 to July 14. The Greek trip is administered by The Athens Center, which provides an on-site program of study and travel in Crete and mainland Greece, plus an intensive introduction to the culture of ancient Greece. James Svendsen and Philip Spann, both professors in the Department of Languages and Literature, coordinate and help teach the program.

Radinger, a native of Austria who moved to the United States in 1950, says the overseas experience is an eye-opener for many Utah students.

"It's really amazing how these students change when they come back," she reports from her office in the Sill Center. "It's a marvelous experience. We feel it's very important for students to have the experience of international study, and to learn about other languages and people."

Radinger, who has worked for the Honors Program since 1966 and has been employed by the U since 1955, would like to offer her students two or three more study-abroad options by next year. She's even hoping to rekindle a relationship with the Institute of European Studies, a company based in Chicago that helps arrange study-abroad trips and with whom the Honors Program has worked in the past.

But more trips means providing more scholarships, and that means finding more sources of funding, Radinger says.

"The interest in study abroad is always high, but people shy away because of the money problem," Radinger says. "We could send more students if we had more money."

The way honors students such as Johnson see it, the more opportunities to study abroad, the better. "There are so many good things about it," he says. "I learned more about myself, and I experienced international friendships. It was amazing."

Karen Wolf is a writer with the University News Service.