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Off-Campus Study

Forms and Reading

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Practical matters

Your program will give you assistance on matters specific to its location such as visas, health, and preparatory reading. For general advice, and to ensure that you will receive proper help and full academic credit from Bowdoin for your off-campus study, you will need to come to the OCS Predeparture Meeting, in preparation for which you will receive various pieces of information and the latest version of the Off-Campus Study Student Handbook. In order to avoid wasting paper, most forms and information are now distributed electronically, but at the meeting you will be given a mail forwarding card and Residential Life's housing application (separate forms for return in the spring or return in the fall).

If you receive financial aid, OCS will send an email with information about this process. If you are applying for financial aid or loans for the first time, you should contact OCS for information about this process. 

International students need to have their I-20 form signed before they leave the US for their off-campus study. The signature by Bowdoin's designated school official, Laura Lee, is valid for one year. If you will be out of the country for longer than five months, you should email Dean Lee to request that a new I-20 be mailed to you. Please allow a month for processing and mail delivery. Note also that an international student attending a college or university in the US will not be able to work on that institution's campus without getting INS employment authorization. If you are applying for summer off-campus work in the US, you must be in the US during February or March, and may not apply for employment authorization from overseas. INS employment authorization is not needed for work at Bowdoin during the summer following off-campus study.

As soon as you have arrived at your program and have full and reliable information about your OCS courses and address, you should use our online form to notify us of them (we also ask for your passport number, in case it is needed in an emergency).

Preparing for a new environment

Even at an early stage of your planning, it will help to anticipate some of what you will be dealing with in a new environment. Whether you will be away for a semester or a year, in a culture similar to or very different from your own, you are likely to experience some adjustment difficulties. The excitement of your first few days can be followed by frustration as you realize that the assumptions and rules by which the host culture operates are quite different from those that you are used to: in, for example, such matters as conformity and individualism, privacy, social structure, formality, gender roles, and punctuality, as well as in more obvious areas such as food and dress. A simple business or social contact can leave you feeling helpless or awkward. Such feelings show that you are coming to grips with a new culture. You will need to employ what you learn in classes about that culture to help you understand its implicit social rules; explore and analyze the unfamiliar with an open mind; avoid the temptation to retreat into the company of other Americans; and remember that just as you would resent being regarded as representative of everything American, so you should not generalize too quickly about your host culture from your first experiences. You will probably find that you adjust soon, and come to look at yourself and your own culture differently. But you should also be prepared, finally, for another difficult -- sometimes even more difficult -- phase of adjustment when you return to the U.S. and to Bowdoin.

Some advance reading will give you insight into how other people have coped with challenges. The following helpful publications can be found in the OCS Office:

  • B. Hansel, The Exchange Student Survival Kit
  • W. W. Hoffa, Study Abroad: A Parent's Guide
  • L. R. Kohls, Survival Kit for Overseas Living
  • T. J. Lewis and R. E. Jungman (eds.), On Being Foreign: Culture Shock in Short Fiction
  • R. M. Paige and others, Maximizing Study Abroad: Students' Guide to Strategies for Language and Culture Learning and Use
  • K. Wagner and T. Magistrale, Writing Across Culture: An Introduction to Study Abroad and the Writing Process
  • CET Academic Programs, Journeying Home (DVD)
  • Glimpse Study Abroad Acclimation Guides: Culture Shock; American Identity Abroad; Language Learning; Traveling to Developing Countries; Gender Roles Abroad; Race Abroad

Your program or Bowdoin professors may well be able to suggest additional books, both fiction and non-fiction, that will help you understand the culture in which you will be living and studying. Many foreign newspapers and magazines are available on the Web and in the Bowdoin Library and Language Media Center. Foreign-language TV news and other programming can now be viewed in the OCS office.