Summer TrampThe oldest recorded faculty-initiated study abroad programs at IU were called Summer Tramps, first established in 1879 by David Starr Jordan, a biologist and the future president of the university, together with a language professor. For almost a decade they led a series of summer ‘tramps’ to Europe with 20 to 30 students and faculty to study natural history, language, and culture in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, France, and England (including 300 miles of hiking in a three-month period!). The program was so important that it was listed in the academic catalogue each year. Credit at IU wasn't established until 1890 but the historical references on file indicate that these trips were considered academically focused.

In 1929 the School of Music established a six-week Summer School in Munich for which students received 7 ½ credits in music, art and languages (and for the latter they had to be examined by the art faculty and language departments at IU upon their return).

A decade later, in 1939, the School of Education created a summer program in Mexico, with credit toward student degrees. The focus on Mexico continued with a 1952 Department of Spanish and Portuguese summer program in Mexico City for Spanish majors with arranged home stays. Around the same time period, a consortium emerged, entitled the Indiana Intercollegiate Study Projects, which ran from 1954-1969. It involved 15 colleges and universities in Indiana that set up summer programs for its students in Mexico, England, France and Spain. The academic fields included in the UK program were Business administration, English, History, Journalism, Political Science, Sociology, and Theatre.

The chair of Slavic Languages and Literatures took the first Russian Language Study Tour for undergraduate students to the USSR in the summer of 1959 with special funding from the Carnegie Corporation. 

Although IU concentrated on primarily college level programs, in 1962 a special program was established by the University for high school students. The first program location was set up in Mexico and additional sites were eventually established for high school students in Germany, France, and Spain that continue to operate today as the IU High School Honors Program under the auspices of the Office of Overseas Study.

Despite the initial trend of summer programs, the institution began to invest its program development efforts in full immersion programs for an academic year. The Department of Spanish and Portuguese set up an academic year program in Lima, Peru in 1959. This was the first U.S. program in the southern hemisphere and involved fully integrated courses in all disciplines with students housed with families. This eventually became a national consortium and ran for over 30 years until it was suspended in 1990 because of terrorist activity (a decade later IU resumed sending students to La Pontificia Universidad Católica, but only as a direct enrollment program without staffing a program center).

In 1964 IU and Purdue University collaborated to set up three joint programs in Spain, France, and Germany. The associate dean of Arts and Sciences established a faculty committee to visit multiple institutions abroad from which to select partner institutions. The committee included professors representing the Departments of Spanish, Chemistry, German, French as well as the registrar, dean’s assistant, and dean for international students. The program model was to have students direct enroll in universities abroad, supervised by rotating faculty directors, with salaries paid by their home departments. The first formal ‘review’ of these programs occurred in 1966 with representatives from IU and Purdue.

A Foreign Study Committee of the faculty members who had launched the academic programs was established in the late 60s to have oversight over the collection of growing programs. This committee operated under the guidance of the College of Arts and Sciences until 1967, when an associate dean of the College was given the directorship of IU's programs since the work had become unwieldy for a faculty committee. It didn't take long for the institution to set up a formal office for international programs, which was established as a system-wide unit with centralized quality control responsibility over all international activity across all campuses of Indiana University. This included an Office of Overseas Study, established in 1972 with Walter T. K. Nugent as director/associate dean, reporting to the dean for International Programs, who in turn reported to the president. The office, since its inception, has had direct responsibility for all IU study abroad programs throughout the eight-campus system.

The Foreign Study Committee was renamed the University Committee on Overseas Study and eventually the Overseas Study Advisory Council (OSAC). It is chaired by the director of Overseas Study and is charged by the president to evaluate all proposals throughout the system for any organized activity abroad, regardless of credit, which includes IU students, graduate or undergraduate.

The Council, with representation from multiple campuses in the IU system, ensures that programs have the support of an academic unit and that the course work is integrated into the curriculum. The Council routinely requires that students select a full-integration option where one is available (i.e., a mainstreamed course, an internship or a service learning component). The Council also ensures that the programs are designed to have students prepared in some way for the language environment of the host country. OSAC also monitors the proposals for appropriate support services as well as security issues.

The Council has two subcommittees: (1) Review Committee, which is responsible for the program evaluation process, and (2) Safety and Responsibility Committee, which is responsible for formulating safety and security policies, including program suspensions or cancellations.

The Office of Overseas Study celebrated its 40th anniversary in December of 2012 during which the meeting room in the Dowling International Center was commemoratively named after its founding director, Walter T. K. Nugent.

In 2014, Dr. Nugent and Kathleen Sideli published a history of the office entitled 40th Anniversary Retrospective: Overseas Study at Indiana University, a compilation of the personal recollections of all the directors of the unit since its creation.

Supporting materials for the book are available online.

BCSP celebrated 50 years of study abroad in Bologna, Italy, on May 27 & 28, 2016. This direct enrollment program was founded in 1965 by Indiana University Professor Emeritus Mark Musa, a renowned Dante scholar, who established the consortium’s first bilateral exchange agreement with the University of Bologna.  Since then more than 1,600 alumni have learned Italian and memorably passed through the portici of via Zamboni.

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In May 2017, Indiana University celebrated the golden anniversary of IU's study abroad program in Madrid and the university's successful partnership with Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin. The WIP Program provides students with an immersive overseas study experience in Spain. Almost 3,000 students have participated in the WIP program during its 50-year history. IU became the managing institution for the WIP consortium in 1997.

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In August 2023, the office began the academic year with a new name: The Office of Overseas Study became IU Education Abroad.

For over 200 years, Indiana University has connected tens of thousands of students with transformative global experiences, with the Office of Overseas Study being officially established in 1972. However, the office and committees overseeing global activity have long served more than the specific interests of students studying abroad.  Over the years, global opportunities have expanded to include numerous intern, research, service, teach, and volunteer opportunities abroad, as well as medical residencies – all of which provide critical insights and experiences for emerging professionals navigating an interconnected world.

The new name, Education Abroad, reflects this wide variety of high impact practices students can engage in abroad and signals our dedication to fostering career competency development and transformational intercultural experiences for Indiana’s future leaders.

View the full story about IU Education Abroad on the IU Global Blog.