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Middlebury C.V. Starr Schools Abroad

About

The Middlebury C.V. Starr Schools Abroad feature 38 sites in 17 countries and are characterized by a focus on integration with the host culture, both linguistically and socially. In addition to taking academically rigorous courses, students are able to participate in internships, volunteer work or campus activities with local students, and at most of our sites students live with local families or peers. With the exception of our programs in Oxford, England and Delhi, India, all communication is in the target language under the Middlebury Language Pledge. By pledging to speak only the target language while abroad, students have the best chance of acquiring fluency and actively engaging in the local environment.

Founded
1949
Headquarters

Sunderland Language Center
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753
United States

Reviews

Default avatar
Grete
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I absolutely loved my semester in Paris. Middlebury provides you with great courses by inspiring Science Po professors in a small classroom environment whereas you also take courses at local universities, thereby getting a double dose of experiences. There is also a wide variety of trips to visit the rest of France, I personally had a fun time in Normandy. I would highlight the supportive team that Middlebury Paris has - they helped me through all kinds of questions and struggles I had in the beginning. I would highly recommend the program to anyone who cares about amazing food, rich cultural life and great flight connections that Paris offers! Coming back with a fluent French is also a great asset.

The only negative aspect was leaving the program - one semester was clearly not enough for me.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Pick up a new hobby. Something like social dancing or that includes mingling with locals - it is incredible how many people you can meet this way. Find Facebook groups for salsa/bachata/tango/rock and go to events. They are fun and not at all expensive!
Default avatar
Elijah
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I found my time in Montevideo to be immensely enjoyable. Montevideo is a great city to live in, because it has the positives of the city without being a hard to get around metropolis. It was easy to walk or take the bus system to whatever destination. While most Uruguayans felt that the city was unsafe, the other international students and I felt Montevideo was a safe city. If you take basic safety precautions, like not putting your phone in your back pocket, you should be okay. This program offers students the chance to study at various public and private universities in city while having an internship at a local organization or company as well. It was great to not only study but to learn about working life as well. Additionally, the support you will receive from staff and your host family while abroad strikes the perfect balance between caring for you and letting you be independent.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
If I could redo my experience in Uruguay, I might chose to attend a private university instead of the public university. It seemed easier to develop friendships at the private university than the public university.
Default avatar
Mike
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

After having spent a semester studying in the bustling Chilean capital of Santiago, I was eager to experience a different part of the country for my second semester abroad. I ended up choosing to study at the Universidad Austral de Chile (UACH), located in the small southern city of Valdivia. I spent my time taking humanities courses at the university's Isla Teja campus, one of two campuses in the city. I was challenged academically by my professors and felt welcomed by peers. We were mutually curious to get to know each other and learn about our respective backgrounds.

If you're not a fan of the rain, Valdivia might not be the place for you. This is important to address in the beginning, because it rains a ton here. Rainy months are from about April to September, with the hardest and most constant rainfall typically taking place from May-July. Definitely show up to Valdivia with a quality rain jacket!

However, the rain may only prevent you from having a worthwhile experience if you let it. Because of the consistent rain, the city is surrounded by lush forests and nature reserves. Rivers run right through the middle of the city and out to the Pacific Ocean, which can be inexpensively accessed by bus in less than 40 minutes. Fans of the outdoors would love the abundance of greenery, coastline and hiking trails in surrounding parts of the area. The UACH, which has a strong emphasis in programs in the natural sciences, has its own arboretum and botanical garden located right on the Isla Teja campus. When the weather permitted, I spent meaningful time taking walks in between classes and enjoying the trees and scenery. It really is a beautiful place to study.

In my experience, the people of Valdivia tended to be welcoming, friendly, and loved to spend time conversing and sharing stories. Because of the rainfall, people have grown accustomed to spending long stretches of time talking. There is a downtown area with restaurants, shops, a few clubs, and a beautiful fish open market with sea lions that jump right up onto the sidewalk. There is a stretch of bars on the Isla Teja, within minutes walking from the university, that are frequented by students and locals alike with excellent brews of local craft beer.

Valdivia is a wonderful place to live and study if one is interested in a more relaxed pace of living. The culture, because of the size of and weather in Valdivia, is more open and easygoing than that of Santiago. The university is one of the best in Chile, though the students tend to be quite politically and socially active and are notorious for striking and therefore halting university courses. My department's students occupied our building for four weeks. In situations like these, however, Middlebury's Chilean program directors organize private classes for students enrolled in the program.

I highly recommend Valdivia for students who are interested in getting to know the south of Chile! It's a truly unique part of South America!

What would you improve about this program?
As I mentioned before, students should be aware of the turbulent political nature of students at the UACH. Strikes are common, and can sometimes last weeks or up to months. The Chilean program directors have measures in place for when situations like these occur, but they still can affect a student's learning/living experience.

I also should mention that Valdivia tends to be a city with lighter-skinned people, and friends of mine of color have experienced racist comments in various forms. Though Haitian migrants are increasingly populating the city, they are sometimes met with discrimination by some local people. This, of course, is not an issue unique to Valdivia - it happens all over Chile and all over the world. However, I do feel that it is important for potential students to be aware of these tensions that may come up while studying in this program.
Default avatar
Mike
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I spent from July - December of 2017 participating in the Human Rights Track, a collaborative program between Middlebury C.V. Starr Schools Abroad and the Universidad Alberto Hurtado in Santiago. The track, designed to offer students the opportunity to gain a holistic and multidimensional understanding of the history of human rights in Chile, includes two Chilean university courses, one Middlebury College Spanish writing and grammar course, an independent research project, and an internship.

The beauty of this program is in the flexibility that it gives to students to craft their academic and cultural experience. I chose to approach learning about human rights through the focus of music and social movements and was able to use Santiago as my classroom, traveling to different parts of the city to conduct interviews with musicologists and historians for my research project. I got to work directly with children in some of Santiago’s most marginalized communities through my internship, which I was paired with by Middlebury's Chilean program directors.

I am very satisfied with the balance the program struck by giving me the independence to tailor my own learning experience while also providing the structure and resources to keep me in the right direction. The Chilean program team inspired unwavering confidence in me as they made themselves available in every way to support me throughout my semester. Whether for academic, personal, or logistical reasons, I knew that I could always count on them to be responsive and empathetic.

Santiago, like any huge city, is what you make of it. Though parts of the city may seem gray and commercial, I adapted to the bustle of the big metropolis and appreciated wholeheartedly all of the culture and growing diversity. Not only was I surrounded by tons of live music events, festivals, theaters and cultural centers, and different restaurants, I was a short bus ride from breath-taking nature reserves, state parks, and other culturally-rich cities like Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. The airport is 40-minute drive from downtown Santiago, making other parts of the country accessible by plane.

I mentioned the city's growing diversity above. Santiago, over the past couple of decades, has been experiencing a significant influx in immigration from countries like Peru, Colombia, Venezuela and Haiti. Much of my internship work followed organizations that are helping integrate native-born Chileans with their migrant neighbors and building healthy and inclusive communities. While many Chileans are eager to welcome this growing diversity, there are also many who choose to meet migrants with discrimination. This is an evolving phenomenon in Chile, and is especially visible in Santiago.

For those students looking to improve their Spanish, this is an incredibly worthwhile program. Like all Middlebury College abroad programs, one must abide by a language pledge and commit them self to only speaking Spanish for the entirety of the semester. Though challenging at points, I found the pledge to be extremely effective. I began my semester fairly confident in my Spanish-speaking abilities, but felt like the language flowed naturally after five months of being immersed in the program.

Chileans’ form of speaking is quite unique as it is very quick and full of phrases that are only used in Chile, but with a positive and easygoing attitude one can adapt to this mode of speaking and make many friends with Chileans in the process (many people I met loved to teach me new phrases and were very patient).

I invite those undergraduate students excited by the idea of having a fully immersive cultural and academic experience in a vibrant and bustling city to consider this program. Overall, I had a extremely enriching and enjoyable semester and remain grateful for the support by the Chilean program directors.

What would you improve about this program?
While I cannot relate to this personally as I had a non-traditional living situation compared to the program's host-family system, some of my peers had difficult experiences with their respective host families. However, the Chilean program directors were quick to listen to the issues that students were having and act quickly to accommodate their needs.
Olivia
7/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This program was really challenging because I came in with a lower level of Arabic but they were able to create another MSA class to accommodate my level. However, because I was at a lower level, my other classes and the language pledge were really challenging because those were still at a higher level. My professors were able to help me overcome many of those initial challenges because of the small size of the program. I had a really great host family who helped me practice my speaking and listening and respected my space. The city of Rabat is big enough so you do not get bored but not too big that you are overwhelmed. I would recommend this program to anyone who is looking to really grow academically and personally through their study abroad experience. However it is not a program for someone looking for an easy semester.

What would you improve about this program?
1. Better structured content courses
2. More pre departure materials
3. Better respect of students' time

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Angela Scorese

Why did you choose this program?

I chose Middlebury Schools Abroad because I wanted a Spanish language immersion program in Europe that also allowed me to continue my study of music. This brought my choices down to Logroño or Córdoba, and given my huge aversion to the cold, Córdoba in the warm south was the logical choice. Plus, Middlebury's program was already "pre-approved" by Barnard, so I wouldn't have to jump through any hoops to get the credits transferred.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

Middlebury sponsored our orientation program in Madrid, a day trip to Málaga and an overnight trip to Cuenca, and a few celebratory meals with the program organizers throughout the semester. They also had a contact in Córdoba who met us when we arrived and helped us find housing (including accompanying us on visits to potential apartments).

Pretty much everything else (rent payments, meals--no meal plan!--, class registration, trips, transportation, etc.) was on our own.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

DON'T be afraid to mess up when speaking the local language! If you allow the fear of locals judging your mistakes to hold you back from doing social things, you'll never grow--and in the case of most language immersion programs, that's why you came in the first place!

Take every opportunity to do activities with local people (whether that's bar trivia, watching a movie, or an activity you do back home) and you'll not only drastically improve your language proficiency but also likely make a lot of new friends!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

I'd make my own meals in my shared apartment kitchen, run around the multiple parks in the area to exercise, walk to class at the University, study in between classes, and end my day with an evening activity that depended on the day of the week.

Monday/Wednesday it was rehearsals with the University choir; Tuesday/Thursday was trivia/language exchange nights at my favorite bar, and my weekends were spent taking lessons at the local music school (and practicing), as well as singing with the Cathedral Choir at Mass.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was that the locals (Andalusians speak FAST, and tend to leave off intervocalic/terminal consonants) would become frustrated with my comparatively slow/imperfect Spanish and refuse to interact with me and/or dislike me. I overcame this through my joining the University choir and participating in language exchange nights at the local bar.

It's a widely accepted fact that music is a universal language, and thanks to my extensive prior choir experience, I was able to follow along in rehearsal even if I didn't initially understand every word the conductor spoke and was able to connect over a shared interest (music). The language exchange nights were designed for the locals to practice their English (which of course was far from perfect!) and helped me be less afraid to make mistakes when speaking--and eventually, the more I spoke and got used to using the language 24/7, the better my Spanish got!

What were a few of your favorite things you did/tried in your city that you never thought you'd get to do before studying abroad?

I got to sing in a 1000-year-old mosque-cathedral--just by asking (and mentioning my music experience/training, of course)! I also managed to fit all of my (important) stuff (that hadn't already been shipped back home) in a carry-on bag when the baggage handlers went on strike the day before I left the country--INVEST IN VACUUM SEAL BAGS, YOU'LL THANK ME LATER.

Also, I tried blood sausage (YUM), snails (overrated), white wine mixed with Sprite AKA rebujito (surprisingly good), fried eggplant dipped in honey (YUM, as odd as the combination sounds), and a ton of other foods (many of which I taught myself to recreate back home).

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Vinita K. Tripathi

Job Title
Director of Middlebury School in India

Vinita has a Master’s degree in Geography from Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and a second master’s in Environment Planning from School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.

She has worked for many years in the field of International education working at the US-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) managing the Fulbright grants for U.S. scholars and students and the Institute of International Education (IIE) administering their programs in the field of education and leadership development.

What position do you hold at Middlebury Schools Abroad? What has been your career path so far?

I am the Director of the Middlebury School in India. Prior to this I worked at the US-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) as Senior Program Officer, managing and administering the Fulbright-Nehru and other Fulbright grants for U.S. scholars and students in India.

I started my career in the area of education management at Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, a bi-lateral organization of the Governments of India and Canada. This was followed by a long stint at the India office of the Institute of International Education (IIE). I was key to establishment of IIE’s office in India and managed IIE’s priority programs with private Foundations in the field of education and leadership development.

While working at these organizations, I developed my expertise in higher education management and continue my work in this field.

What country have you always wanted to visit?

I grew up in a very small town of India, in an age where globalization was a very far off thing. The large Atlas at my home was the only gateway to far off lands. Names of places like Saskatchewan and Newfoundland would amaze me.

Also, it was the era of cold war where India was aligned with the then U.S.S.R. We would receive a lot of Russian promotional magazines and low priced Russian classics. The illustrated magazines brought Russian culture and community to life for us. This is one country that I have always wanted to visit.

I would love to visit not only Moscow and St. Petersburg but also the rural hinterland of Russia. I also want to see the famed cities of Bukhara, Samarkand, Tashkent which were part of the former U.S.S.R.

Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?

Language learning and cultural immersion are complimentary to each other. You cannot have one without the other. These are the two aspects of study abroad that make the learning complete. Reading books and watching movies/ videos gives you a just a glimpse of life in a different culture.

When you travel to another country, live through the experience, only then do you realize the cultural differences. It sensitizes you to the culture of your host country. You have to live in a country to make your experience real.

Knowing the language brings out the context of simple things like TV commercials, popular songs. A few sentences in the local language endears you to people around you. This creates an opportunity for true immersion in the host culture.

What was your favorite traveling experience?

I have travelled to different parts of India and 19 countries in the world. Each travel has been a unique experience.

The one experience that stands out is of traveling from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji in Japan. Equipped with some instruction on a piece of paper in Japanese (which I can neither read nor understand), started our three hour journey with two train changes. Using sign language and showing around the small piece of paper combined with the precision of Japanese trains, we had a beautiful journey taking us to our destination.

The other incident that stands out is of my first visit to Paris. As we hurriedly got down at an interchange station, my husband exclaimed that we were at the wrong station. Instead of ‘Villiers’ we had disembarked at ‘Sortie’. For a moment I panicked and looked at the signs at regular intervals only to realize that sortie was the French for exit.

What does your home-country's culture​ value that is taught in your program?

The concept of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam”, a Sanskrit phrase which embodies the philosophy that the whole world is one family, is at the core of our program.

India is a multi-cultural country. Each region of India is diverse in its culture and language. Yet there is unity in this diversity. It is a country that teaches you to respect diverse cultures and adapt best practices from each.

Our program helps our students to learn from India’s religious pluralism and cultural diversity.

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