Virginia’s new study-abroad program in London for first-year students flies in the face of the idea that the goal of one’s first semester is to get acclimated—and that’s the whole point. “We’re excited at the prospect of introducing an important city with … cosmopolitan cultures to our students before they come to Charlottesville and they get, for lack of a better term, stuck in life here,” says Dudley Doane (Educ ’03), UVA’s director of international, summer and special academic programs.
“It will have quite an impact on their experience when they return—the curricular choices they make, the organizations they join, whether they go abroad again, and then career choices.”
The pilot program, based at Regent’s University London this fall, will be composed of 20 first-year students, four upper-class UVA students (who will serve as advisers) and an advanced graduate student who will teach. Students will be taking some of the courses that are being introduced into the College’s curriculum—part of a pilot program of new general education requirements starting in the 2017-18 academic year. They will go through a UVA orientation when they arrive in London, then another on Grounds when they return in January. “I just think it’s a really exciting way for UVA students to start their academic experience,” says Rachel Most, the associate dean for undergraduate academic programs. “I think they will come back and be able to share that experience with the rest of the student population.”
Adds Doane: “Following Brexit and what’s happened here recently in the United States with our election, it’s a very dynamic time—and I think London is an excellent place for students to have access to. It’s an amazing laboratory.”