Study abroad numbers increasing

by Elizabeth Giorgi

Because of increased funding and program integration, the University’s study abroad numbers are some of the highest in the nation.

The Institute of International Education released its annual Open Doors statistics last week, and the University was ranked seventh in the nation for study abroad participation in the 2003-2004 academic year.

The Study Abroad Center attributes the increase to recent steps into making the study abroad option a more regular choice for University students.

Increases in scholarship funding and the curriculum integration into majors and minors in several college departments are leading many students to choose the study abroad option.

Learning Abroad Center communications professional Santiago Fernandez-Gimenez said he wasn’t surprised with the increased number of students participating in study abroad or the University’s high national ranking in study abroad numbers.

“There was an institutional commitment to internationalizing the University four or five years ago,” he said.

Previous University President Mark Yudof and current President Bob Bruininks started making investments and writing grants to bring more money into the Learning Abroad Center, Fernandez-Gimenez said.

Faculty and staff members increased efforts to involve the international experience as part of students’ learning, he said.

These changes are the most important difference in how students view study abroad, Fernandez-Gimenez said.

“Study abroad is only one dimension of the change that is happening; there are more classrooms that are having international components built into them,” he said.

Fernandez-Gimenez said the efforts will continue to increase study abroad participation.

The Learning Abroad Center is finding that students who study abroad experience increased graduation rates and are more likely to graduate on time, said Jodi Malmgren, director of advising in the Learning Abroad Center.

Malmgren said one of the major differences for students who study abroad is that they are more careful in following their academic plan and are more likely to graduate on time.

Office of International Programs Director Eugene Allen said he expects higher participation in study abroad to continue.

One reason so many students are able to study abroad, he said, is the increased number of grants the University has received for study abroad opportunities.

The grants allowed for the University to offer more scholarships to its students, he said.

In 1999-2000, the University had approximately $50,000 available in grants between four campuses, and currently there is about $350,000, Allen said.

Sociology junior Erica Schwanke said she considered studying abroad in Northern Ireland or South Africa.

Schwanke said one problem she experienced when applying to study abroad is that many scholarships are designated for students traveling to underdeveloped countries or Spanish-speaking countries.

However, she said, the University’s recent efforts allow for more opportunities to study abroad in more places.