A broad context of study abroad in the US during and after the end of World War II

Woodlawn-Language School-004.jpg

San Luis de Potosí campus, 1944

Study Abroad Summer Schools was a common practice since the turn of the 20th century. Foreign language teachers would commonly attend summer schools to refine their language skills and teaching techniques. After World War II, however, the practice was halted. Latin American countries were not widely considered an alternative to replace Spain as the European stop to train in Spanish. As a 1919 article suggested, “Some of them, especially young teachers with a small salary, cannot afford to pay five hundred dollars for a summer’s study abroad, but they are able and willing to pay one hundred dollars for attendance at an American summer school.” Still, in some universities, especially those nearby the border with Mexico, traveling south of the border was not a crazy idea. When Europe, once again, fell into war, and with Mexico as an important ally during World War II, an idea of a language summer school started to take place at Trinity University. 

An important part of the context for the Trinity Language School was the broad discussions about solidarity, peace, security, and tolerance that was happening in academia and political circles. In universities, specifically, there was a need to relax department requirements to allow for a better interdisciplinary education that would bring nuance to an information age (with the newspaper and radio) that in the 1940s “[was] already exploiting the public's need for information for their own ends… With intriguing force, those interests are utilizing the recently developed techniques of summarizing, graphically charting, and pictorially representing facts and opinions. They are employing them with the shrewdness of the skilled advertiser who popularizes his appeal and gets results. This is competition the schools cannot afford to overlook.” Creating structured study abroad programs would allow teachers and students to not only refine language skills but to provide experiences with different perspectives and world views, intercultural exchanges, and opportunities that would be essential to keep peace and not repeat the foolishness of “great wars”. 

The Trinity Language School, starting in 1944 in San Luis de Potosi and continuing in Mexico City until 1950, had as its mission this intercultural exchange tailored for any citizen willing to engage in this learning experience. In collaboration and cooperation with Mexican faculty and administration, the Language School became a stepping stone for future study-abroad initiatives.

Works Cited

Stroebe, Lilian, "Organization and Management of Summer Schools for Modern Languages", Education 39, No. 5 (1919): 305-316. 

Price, Maurice T., "A World Perspective for the Average Student", The Journal Of Higher Education 16, No. 8 (November 1945): 413-419.