In spring 2020, 43 Harvey Mudd College students said “goodbye Claremont” and “hello world” — more students are studying abroad this semester than ever before in the college’s history.
In the early 2000s, only 5 percent of Mudd juniors studied abroad, according to a press release. Now, 15 to 18 percent of the junior class regularly studies abroad. This year, it’s up to a record 22 percent.
“Mudd culture is shifting,” Laura Fleming HM ’20, who studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, said via email. “Every new class that comes in seems to value cultural and experiential learning more than the ones before.”
“Mudders are becoming more well-rounded, placing more value on experiences outside of the Claremont bubble and wanting to find personal growth in areas outside of the STEM fields,” she added.
Mudd study abroad director Rhonda Chiles expressed excitement about the development in the release.
“We’re really excited about how our numbers have increased, that so many students have chosen to and are able to study abroad this semester,” Chiles said. “We’ve been working hard to make this possible — partnering with our program providers to increase the portfolio of STEM programs, working with our academic departments to ensure that courses abroad meet the necessary requirements and encouraging students who have returned from study abroad to share their amazing experiences.”
Aitzin Cornejo-Reynoso HM ’21 is currently enrolled in a mathematics-focused program in Budapest, Hungary, and is “really enjoying” the academic experience so far, calling it “very different” from Mudd.
“Just seeing how other colleges teach math — how it’s taught in another country — has been super interesting to learn,” Cornejo-Reynoso told TSL.
However, Cornejo-Reynoso added that for students used to an abundance of top-quality STEM courses, going abroad might feel like a downgrade.
“You’re not going to find a lot of colleges with as many options that are as rigorous as they are at Mudd,” she said.
Fleming attributed Mudd’s traditionally low study abroad rates to the college’s demanding curriculum.
“Going abroad as a STEM major is challenging because we place so much value on Mudd courses,” Fleming said.
“Many Mudders I’ve talked to, who made the decision not to study abroad, did so because they value Mudd courses too much to take a semester off, or didn’t want to get behind on graduation requirements, which is likely to happen if you go abroad,” Fleming added.
Fleming said studying abroad allowed her to see new ways of understanding the world.
“I was able to put Mudd in a global perspective and experience personal growth that I could never experience inside the Claremont bubble,” Fleming said.
“For the first time, when I was abroad, I felt like I was able to live a full, well-rounded life instead of feeling the constant, dominating stress of Mudd coursework,” Fleming said.
Mudd President Maria Klawe said study abroad experiences are “vital for STEM students, who will be creating technologies that may impact the entire world” in a Forbes article last year.
Chiles expressed a similar sentiment.
“One of the mottos in my office is ‘STEM majors are global majors,’” Chiles said. “I want students to look at their major from a wider global perspective, not from just a U.S. perspective. Everything they do is going to impact the world, and they need to be a part of that world, be part of others’ cultures and see how classes are taught from a different perspective.”