At the U, fewer men study abroad

Approx. 63% of students who study abroad are women.

At the U, fewer men study abroad

Jill Jensen

 

Chances are high students studying abroad will be in a group dominated by women.

About two-thirds of students studying abroad from the University of Minnesota are female, prompting the Learning Abroad Center to try to equalize the gender ratio.

About 37 percent of the 2,500 students who studied abroad during 2010-11 were men, according to data from the Learning Abroad Center. That ratio has been fairly consistent for the past decade and follows national trends, according to data from the Institute of International Education.

Jaclyn Knapmiller experienced the gender gap when she studied in Italy during summer 2010. She said women definitely outnumbered men on that trip.

The Learning Abroad Center is taking steps to make studying abroad more appealing to men, said Brook Blahnik, director of advising.

“We want it to be representative of who’s on campus.”

He said the center has tried to streamline the process by putting first-step meetings online — gender disparity at in-person meetings was even greater than when they actually go abroad.

Blahnik said the communications team has tried to use more direct language and male representation in its marketing.

They have also designed programs and integrated curriculum from male-dominant disciplines, like mechanical engineering, to appeal to more men.

Public relations senior Jens Heig said many of the students studying in New Zealand during spring 2010 were adventurous. The country is a “paradise for outdoorsmen” — he went bungee jumping and sky diving — which could be why about half of the students in his group were male.

But despite Learning Abroad Center efforts, they haven’t “cracked the nut” about why this disparity exists, Blahnik said.

Majors with mostly men study abroad more

Though women traditionally pursue majors in the humanities, some colleges known for hosting more men than women have increased the number of students abroad.

Nearly a quarter of students studying abroad in 2010-11 had business and management majors. Based on spring 2012 enrollment data, about 60 percent of students in the Carlson School of Management are male.

About 1,000 students who studied abroad during that time had majors in humanities, arts, languages or social science fields — departments that make up the College of Liberal Arts, where 57 percent of students are female.

Blahnik said this could be part of the reason more women study abroad, but there are other factors that can’t be measured because gender crosses socioeconomic and race lines.

He said his “gut feeling” is that men are less adventurous than women when it comes to studying abroad and often worry what they’ll miss back home. Many want to stick together.

“They’re a little bit more willing to go if they’ve got a buddy going,” he said.

Heig only decided to study abroad when a friend convinced him to accompany her to New Zealand last spring.

At a party about a month before the deadline, Heig made the spontaneous decision to go abroad.

Learning Culture

Learning abroad isn’t just for students to improve a language they’re studying.

Although Heig takes French courses at the University, he went abroad to experience a new culture.

He said adjusting to an unfamiliar lifestyle and English dialect helped him learn a lot about himself.

“It was a pretty spur-of-the-moment decision to go, and it was probably one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.”

New Zealanders are allowed to have open alcohol containers on the street and have a more relaxed college atmosphere. He said during orientation week, they burned old furniture left behind in apartments.

“I used to think that we partied hard at the U, but they’re just on a whole other level,” he said.