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The School for Field Studies (SFS)

About

The School for Field Studies (SFS) offers field-based programs that revolve around environmental studies and research. The programs involve exploration of the human and ecological aspects of issues having to do with the local environments. Students assist SFS's global partners and host communities in their research, finding meaningful solutions to real environmental problems. Study abroad with SFS to have an experience of a lifetime and earn academic credit while making a difference in the world!

Founded
1980
Headquarters

100 CUMMINGS CENTER, SUITE 534G
Beverly , MA 01915
United States

Scholarships

The School for Field Studies Scholarships
SFS Awards More Than $650,000 in Need-based Aid Each Year

SFS works closely with your home school to help you fund your SFS program. Many applicants receive aid through their home institutions or other outside sources, so check with your financial aid office to see what aid may apply to an SFS program.

Value
$500 - $5,000

Reviews

Default avatar
Ben
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I have wanted to go to Central America for a long time, so I jumped on this opportunity to go and learn about the leader of environmentalism. It was everything I wanted and more. I got there and spent three months in on a gorgeous campus learning hands-on about ecology and environmentalism. All the professors know about what they are talking about and are incredibly passionate about it. Every field trip they took us only much added in the learning as I was able to see what they were talking about instead of looking at pictures. We get free time to explore on our own and see places the program was not able to take us to. Loved getting to see many different parts of Costa Rica and get to know the people that live here. I can not imagine a better semester abroad for me.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
I would say be willing to do everything and go out of your comfort zone. Leave campus to explore whenever you can. There are so many places to check out that they are entirely worth it, and many are not expensive. Do not be scared to explore by yourself as sometimes you have the most fun that way.
Default avatar
Marta
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I have been back in the U.S. for 2.5 weeks now, and I am glad to say that despite the time continuing to pass, I will never have a shortage of amazing memories to look back on from my semester in Bhutan.

The School for Field Studies has opened up the world for me; it has shown me another culture and way of life, a stunning country, and it has turned typical Western education on its head: you don’t have to be in a classroom to learn; you don’t need a library to study. SFS fosters learning in real-life situations: having to cope with language barriers when trying to interview locals; collaborating with peers to complete research projects; most of all, I think it helps foster self-reliance, self-compassion, and self-knowledge. Kadrinche la, Bhutan!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Monks on the roof of a monastery, DANCING! They were fixing something on the roof and one was tied to another with a rope...it was both the most absurd and heartwarming thing I had seen!
Default avatar
Patrick
4/10
No, I don't recommend this program

It seems like this program has changed a lot since the Hurricane in 2017. The staff has turned over, rules have gotten stricter, and overall program quality seems to have decreased (unfortunately). Academics aren't too difficult but lots of busy work and boring class time restricts your time out in the field (classes are 8am to 6pm M, T, Th, F while the semester is in full swing). Lectures could have been cut in half with the same content covered. On Wednesday and Saturday you have waterfront and community service time, but due to bad planning we lost our Wednesdays during the second half of the semester. Directed research projects, advertised as a highlight for the program, only have 10 field days and really only happen during the last two weeks of the semester. Added on to this is the way the staff treats you- like a middle schooler. Curfew, no kitchen entry, have to sign out if you want to swim, not allowed to stand or move in boats (even though many students can drive boats better than the staff), etc... Its degrading and endlessly frustrating (they even went as far as to put up barbed wire and security cameras because they didn't trust us). As someone who just wanted to explore South Caicos and participate in a field studies focused program, I felt this program did not live up to many of my expectations. I had tons of fun times on South and may be a little harsh in my review, but it was hard to look past all these shortcomings during my time abroad with SFS.

What would you improve about this program?
Cut down on classroom time, increase field exercises, lengthen DR time, reduce or fix rules.
Response from The School for Field Studies (SFS)

Patrick, thank you for taking the time to leave a review on your program experience. We are sorry to hear that it did not meet your expectations and will be taking your feedback into consideration for future terms. SFS programs are highly structured; however, our goal is to provide exciting, hands-on learning in unique environments and safety on our programs is always important.

Default avatar
Hanna
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had an amazing time with SFS Cambodia. The classwork is incredibly interesting and the ability to go into the field and connect what you have learned in class to real life experiences is unlike any learning setting I have been in before. The center is also located in a central location and it is very easy to get into downtown Siem Reap. The first portion of the program is very busy with homework and full days, which can sometimes leave you feeling overwhelmed and as if you have no time to actually enjoy the city you are living in. However, the directed research portion does allow for more free time because you are doing most of your work on your own. My directed research project was the highlight of the trip for me, as it allowed me to interview indigenous people in Cambodia, an experience that I will never be able to recreate in the future.

Overall, I would recommend this program to someone who is passionate about environmental science, and who is comfortable living in close quarters with a small group of people. You must be flexible, and able to adapt to situations that you may be unfamiliar with. Keeping an open mind and a positive attitude throughout the program is definitely one of the major reasons I enjoyed myself so much.

What would you improve about this program?
There were often long essays due during trips, and sometimes we had no wifi to do research and not much free time to actually do the essays and have time to explore the new places we were visiting. Some assignments for different classes also felt like they were reiterating the same ideas so it was sometimes hard to feel like you were writing anything original.
Default avatar
Bronya
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

my semester with TIBS was awesome! It was so cool to have the ocean, rainforest, and archipelago as a whole as a classroom. All of the professors and staff at SFS are amazing people who truly make the program as awesome as it is. They're all super talented and passionate about what they do and for sure people I'm coming away super lucky to have gotten to know. The classes were all super engaging and interesting. The center is right on the water and they have paddle boards and kayaks to use which was awesome. The town is super close and most of the activities there are to do on your free time are diving, surfing, snorkeling, and hanging out on the beach. There is not much free time during the first two months but there is more once directed research starts. I didn't mind at all being so busy the first two months though because classes were so cool and we got to go to so many different places with class.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
I wish I knew that there would be limited access to hiking/backpacking/camping so don't bring your backpacking gear to this program because you won't use it. Also, READ THE WELCOME LETTER AND THE WHOLE FIELD GUIDE when they send it out!!!

Programs

Displaying 19 - 24 of 24

Alumni Interviews

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

Vincent Frano

Vincent is a non-traditional student studying Horticultural Science. He has traveled abroad with his partner since 2010, but had never studied abroad until attending the School for Field Studies.

An open field.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose the School for Field Studies after being introduced to the program in a class on Environment and Society. They were highly recommended by my professor as well as by an SFS alumni. The Summer Session 1 in Australia and New Zealand had the most focus on plant life and also covered topics such as ecosystem restoration which are directly relevant to my career goals.

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

SFS provided very detailed information on how to register for the program and fulfill necessary requirements once accepted (such as visa applications, travel health insurance, disability services, etc.) Organizing staff at SFS were readily available by phone or email to answer questions. I also received help from my university's Study Abroad office.

The one thing that SFS coordinated was having a specific travel agency to book a flight from Australia to New Zealand, as this ensured that everyone in the Summer Program was on the same flight. Otherwise, I organized all other travel, insurance, course credits, and other necessities on my own. However, this was easy to do, thanks to the help of my school's Study Abroad office and SFS's clear guidelines and assistance.

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

Bring a Mastercard or Visa debit card that allows you to make purchases abroad without a fee (Capital One 360 has no fees and does not require notification). Use this card at ATMs to withdraw Australian and New Zealand dollars. Try to avoid currency exchanges if possible since ATMs have much better rates than exchanges.

I found that I needed more cash in New Zealand than in Australia. Bring cash to the Yungaburra Market that you will visit one weekend in Australia. Also, bring cash to New Zealand for your free night in Aukland since it's easier to keep track of and limit your tab at bars. Most places in both AU and NZ accept credit card, however. Don't bring Amex or Discover, though! Neither are accepted in AU or NZ.

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

Since Summer I is only a month long, each week is very different, and things even change from day to day. A typical day at the center in Australia involves waking up around 6 to 7 AM (depending on the schedule) and having breakfast at the center's outdoor covered kitchen. After breakfast clean-up, there might be a lecture or a scheduled off-site activity. Usually, lunches are packed after breakfast for off-site activities. Days with off-site activities usually end around 4 PM since the sun sets by 6 PM. Dinner is usually around 5:30. After dinner is generally free time to study, work on journals, or just hang out.

In New Zealand, you'll stay in at least three different places. The schedule is pretty packed, so expect to be on a chartered bus frequently. The bus makes stops along the way for activities, breaks, and lunch. The longest stay in one place in NZ will be with the Prime family. There you'll have a more steady schedule with hikes and day trips.

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

I was concerned about the difficulty of the environment in the rainforests and living in close quarters with many new people. Neither one of these turned out to be as intimidating as I thought.

The rainforest is definitely damp and has a lot of creepy critters (like terrestrial leeches and huntsman spiders), but they're easy to deal with. I always checked the bathroom stalls and showers before going in to make sure no spiders or leeches were sharing it with me. I also checked my clothes and skin for leeches daily. Being aware of my surroundings was really all I needed to settle in to the rainforest environment.

As for living in close quarters with others, this actually makes dealing with the rainforest much easier! Someone in your cabin may not be freaked out by spiders, so they can remove any that sneak in to your personal space. Plus you end up bonding over stories of leeches, spiders, or seeing some crazy animal/insect while walking around the center. After this experience, I feel much more comfortable around spiders, and I realized I really enjoy communal living.

What did you learn from this experience?

Before this program, I had never traveled abroad alone and had never been to a tropical environment. But going to this program showed me that it is really beneficial to face your fears and try something new. However, if you're going to get the most out of an experience, it pays to keep an open mind. Try to go into a new situation without specific expectations, and avoid making snap judgments.

Even if things are challenging sometimes, try not to look at challenges as pure discomfort, but as something to learn from.

Being without internet/cell service might seem difficult, until you realize how much more you're paying attention to your surroundings and engaging with people. Living and traveling with other people can also help you to learn how to work as a team, to listen to others, or how to deal with conflict in a healthy way. So definitely try something new, and you'll probably be surprised by how much you'll gain from it!

More Interviews

Staff Interviews

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

Sophie Ohaus

Sophie Ohaus is currently the Program Intern at The School for Field Studies (SFS) in Bhutan. Sophie graduated from Colorado College in 2014 with a degree in Sociology and Global Health. After graduating she spent the year working for a qualitative analytics firm and a local community foundation, but the urge for adventure kept calling, leading to her to one of the most remote countries in the world, Bhutan!
A young girl posing for a picture.

Did YOU study abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?

I studied abroad three times! The first time was between high school and freshman year of college with The School For Field Studies in Australia. The second time was the summer between sophomore and junior year of college in Ecuador, and the third time was junior spring in India.

The first time I studied abroad, I went because I wanted a break from conventional schooling before starting college. However, I found that I loved it so much I was constantly driven towards finding more opportunities to study abroad.

Also, as a sociology major I discovered my passion for understanding how people interact with the world around them, especially the interactions between humans, development, and the environment. Studying abroad gave me the opportunity to explore these interactions among different cultures all over the world.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Communication is key! I believe that proper communication is one of the most important aspects towards insuring a successful company, especially in study abroad where everyone is working outside their home environment and it is easy to get lost in a hectic schedule.

Our staff makes sure to check in at least once a day by having breakfast all together, and we have longer staff meetings once a week. These daily check-ins and weekly meetings help all of us stay on the same page and also makes sure that everything runs smoothly.

What unique qualities does your company possess?

I believe that The School for Field Studies gives its student a rare opportunity to immerse themselves and give back to the local community through the unique Directed Research (DR) component. During the DR part of the semester, students have the chance to conduct a research project that specifically relates to the local community’s environmental needs.

Due to each SFS research station’s unique long-term research plan, these projects can build off themselves year to year, ensuring that the research informs local stakeholders and helps them to create positive changes in the community.

Here in Bhutan, the students don’t only get to present to the local community, but they also get the opportunity to present to a much larger audience in the country’s capital of Thimphu.

The Directed Research aspect is such a strong feature of SFS that with the guidance of our professors and the help from local stakeholders, the students often produce very high quality reports which has allowed them to present back home, get published, or develop senior theses.

Describe a time when you felt especially proud to be part of the SFS team.

It's hard to pick one specific time that I've felt especially proud to be part of the SFS team, there are just too many! Seeing how much our students grow over their experience in Bhutan is always a very rewarding experience.

This usually culminates for me when I watch them present their Directed Research findings at the end of the semester. Dressed in traditional ghos and kiras, the students always impress me, not only with their research but also in the way that they present themselves.

The ease at which they can talk to the local people, dress in national dress, and discuss their research makes me proud to know that these students are a part of The School for Field Studies' community.

More Interviews

Professional Associations

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