While the University of Delaware currently offers more than 100 study abroad programs in over 40 countries, just over a century ago, no such programming existed anywhere in the United States. Some early 20th century students did travel internationally for education, but efforts to study abroad were undertaken individually, and it was largely the wealthy who were able to make such trips. However, Delaware would soon change that dynamic.
In 1921, Professor Raymond Kirkbride of the Modern Languages Department suggested a new program that would forever change the American collegiate experience. Kirkbride proposed the Junior Year Abroad, a program though which college students could be immersed in a foreign language and culture. As a veteran at the end of World War I, Kirkbride had lived and studied in France, and he wanted to begin the program in that nation, sending Delaware students to live in French homes and undertake extensive language training before attending university in Paris. President Walter Hullihen supported this idea, both for its educational and international relations benefits. With financial support from the university and from Pierre S. du Pont, Kirkbride spent the next year in France, preparing for the program.
Kirkbride accompanied the first group of eight male University of Delaware students to Paris in the summer of 1923 in what came to be known as the Delaware Foreign Study Plan. The program was made coeducational the
following year, and then opened to students of other universities in 1925. The Foreign Study Plan continued to be successful and expanded each year, as can be seen in this photograph of the 1926-27 group on the deck of the ship sailing to France. Destinations were eventually expanded to include Germany and Switzerland as well as France. The Foreign Study Plan inspired other American universities to copy this program and was the predecessor of modern study abroad programs.