October 24, 2006

Study abroad office scurries to fill Paris slots

Spots in the winter and spring quarter study abroad programs in Paris have remained unfilled past the application deadline. Normally these programs are filled by the spring of the preceding academic year.

“It seems strange. Studying philosophy, in Paris, in the springtime—people write songs about that,” said Louis Fortner, director of the study abroad program, citing the relative unpopularity of the spring quarter Humanities program in Paris.

Taught by professors Jonathan Lear, Laura Letinsky, and John Perry, the spring 2007 Humanities program will offer courses in philosophy, art, and European immigration issues, according to the professors’ personal areas of interest.

Fortner said students who do not want to study abroad are primarily focused on completing Core requirements. Only the civilization studies programs fulfill Core requirements, though students can petition for course credit in other areas of the Core.

“Students have a narrow sense of what is practical,” Fortner said.

Demand for the Paris academic programs, as well as other academic programs, such as language-immersion programs in Pisa, Toledo, and Freiburg, will therefore generally be less competitive than the civilization programs.

Fortner said the coursework for some programs is highly specialized. For example, an Advanced Mathematics program offered during spring quarter requires students to have taken calculus, analysis, and algebra sequences.

“That knocks out the vast majority of students,” Fortner said. “We’re happy to send a small, strong group of students in that kind of program.”

The spring humanities program requires no courses beyond the Core sequence in the humanities, though further background in the humanities and French language are recommended.

Another specialized program in Paris includes an autumn “Images de Paris” program that requires students to have taken the second-year French sequence.

Paris has long been a hub for University of Chicago activity abroad. In 1983, the University initiated its study-abroad program with the year-long stay in Paris, where students take classes in French at one of several Paris universities. Since then, offerings in Paris have expanded to 10 separate programs in both French and English.

The University of Chicago Center in Paris opened in September of 2003. It houses undergraduate study abroad programs throughout the year, including summer quarter.

Today, about one-third of students who study abroad go to Paris.

“The Paris Center was a classroom hub where people from the different programs could meet each other,” said fourth-year Roger Fierro, who participated in the winter quarter International Studies program, another specialized program designed for International Studies majors.

“The staff there were incredibly nice and helpful with just about anything we asked,” Fierro said.

Though perhaps not as popular as expected, the various Paris programs are here to stay. Fortner said the College was not concerned with the financial impact of operating smaller programs abroad.

“We like to fill programs,” he said. “But all programs are money losers. If that were a concern, we wouldn’t run any programs at all. This is for the students.”