Interest in foreign study climbs

Elizabeth Dunbar

Interest in international study has increased at the University and across the country, but not everyone agrees on the reason why.

Students attending Wednesday’s Global Campus Study Abroad Fair on the Washington Avenue Bridge gave study abroad representatives a better idea of why a recent study released by the Institute of International Education indicates an increased interest in international study.

“Given Sept. 11, people are looking to see what opportunities there are to understand people from other countries,” Peace Corps recruiter Matthew Dufresne said.

Several of the study abroad representatives said they saw an increased interest among freshmen.

“I’ve seen a lot of first year students today,” said Eero Jesurun, a program officer for the Council on International Educational Exchange.

Jesurun said he attends study abroad fairs across the country and hasn’t seen younger students interested at many schools.

“I think this school has more students thinking about it early on,” he said.

University freshmen Jesse Lickel and Kim Gengler attended the fair, looking for opportunities outside the United States.

“Globally, there is so much to do,” said Gengler, an English major who hopes to find a volunteer opportunity abroad.

Lickel said he is thinking about majoring in Spanish and wanted to start thinking about study abroad now.

“I’m hoping to go somewhere and experience something I wouldn’t get on a normal vacation,” Lickel said.

Several representatives attributed the heightened international awareness to factors beyond Sept. 11.

Michael Eaton, a recruiter for the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs study abroad programs, said the increase has to do with the University’s commitment to encourage study overseas.

“The University has been really good about saying that students need to go abroad, from the president’s office on down,” Eaton said.

Others say the increased interest is simply the result of individual growth within students.

“I think that students are continuing to recognize the value of an international experience,” said Mickey Slind, representative for Butler University’s Institute for Study Abroad.

“I’m very proud of this generation,” Slind said. “Students that return from abroad bring back a sense of global awareness that other students want to experience.”

The IIE reports 98 percent of the 482 international education professionals responding to its online survey said international exchange, including study abroad, was considered more or equally as important on their campuses after Sept. 11.

Global Campus director Al Balkcum said the campus has seen an increase in both study abroad inquiries and participation.

Balkcum said a combination of increased recruiting efforts and grant-funded projects to find international opportunities for colleges and departments has led to a steady increase in study abroad in the last few years.

According to Global Campus statistics, the number of students choosing a full year of international study is one of the larger increases. One hundred ten University students are studying abroad for the entire 2002-03 school year, a number 38 percent higher than last year.

Inquiries have also increased: 177 students sought study abroad advising during the first two weeks of fall semester 2002, a 25 percent increase from the same time period in fall 2001.

The IIE study also reported that interest and enrollment of international students in the United States is rising or steady. Thirty-three percent of the respondents reported an increase in international enrollment since last year, but 35 percent did not see any noticeable change.

Official figures for international students studying at the University are not yet available, but Maggie Catambay of International Student and Scholar Services said she expects the number to be down from last year when the University had a record number of international students.

One possible reason is that many students have had problems getting their visas, Catamby said.

The number of students enrolled in international-related courses at the University has been steady, according to the global studies and political science departments.

Political science advisor Rose Miskowiec said she’s seen an increase in more than just internationally focused courses this year.

“I think there’s a renewed interest in government and politics in general,” Miskowiec said.

“I think a lot more students are interested because of the recent political situations,” Jesurun said. “They start asking: ‘Why don’t other cultures like the U.S.?’ There has to be a reason.”