Despite a weak economy and security concerns in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, University of St. Thomas students continue to regard study abroad as a critical component of their education experience.
According to newly released national data, the number of St. Thomas students studying abroad in 2001-2002 was 644, of which 587 were undergraduate students and 57 were graduate students. This is an increase from the previous year and indicates that just over half of the students graduating from St. Thomas with a bachelors degree have studied abroad.
This is International Education Week, which is when the Institute of International Education (IIE) publishes its annual Open Doors report. The 2003 report publishes findings from a national survey of higher education institutions regarding study-abroad and international-student statistics from 2001-2002.
In response to the latest study abroad figures, Patricia Harrison, assistant secretary for educational and cultural affairs at the U.S. Department of State, which funds the Open Doors report, said: "We are gratified by the continuing increase in the number of U.S. students studying abroad. A 4.4 percent growth is extremely encouraging, and shows that American students continue to recognize that preparation for success in a global future needs to include overseas study. And the reports from American campuses suggest that the trend is toward even greater growth ahead. Overall, the numbers demonstrate quite clearly that students realize that the world of tomorrow will require everyone to be globally aware and conversant."
Semester and Yearlong Participation Increases; Short-term and Diverse Locations Remain Strong
In 2001-02, 270, or 37 percent of study-abroad students at St. Thomas studied abroad for a semester or a year, up from 29 percent (or 218 students) the previous year. And that number has risen steadily, increasing 55 percent over the past 5 years and 139 percent over the past 10 years.
The national trend in study abroad, however, continues toward shorter stays and more diverse locations. That trend holds true at St. Thomas, with 465 students studying abroad on a short-term program in 2001-02 and 149 of all study-abroad students studying in less traditional locations. While the majority of St. Thomas students study in Western Europe, many St. Thomas students venture to countries such as China, Cuba, Ghana, Guatemala, Morocco and Russia.
London Education Semester
Faculty support of international education contributes to the continued strength of study abroad at St. Thomas, including involvement as faculty directors of new and well-established programs.
The London Education Semester is the newest semester-abroad program that links faculty and department support with student interest to make study abroad possible for education majors.
Dr. Trudi Taylor will direct the new fall program in 2004. Students will enroll in the first block of their education curriculum sequence in London, a combination of coursework and a 30-hour practicum in a British classroom. Because of Minnesota teaching licensure requirements, study abroad for education majors has been difficult to fit into their undergraduate degree. This new program will open up the possibility for an exciting international semester for future teachers.
Study Abroad Especially Important in Todays World
These most recent statistics demonstrate that St. Thomas recognizes the relevance of study abroad in todays world, noted Ann Hubbard, associate director of international education. Faculty and student interest in international experiences remains strong despite difficult conditions at home and around the globe.
When students return from abroad, they speak of gaining valuable insights into other cultures as well as learning to see their own culture from another perspective, she said.
Echoing the importance of study abroad is the IIE president, Allan Goodman: The continuing and strong increase in study abroad is especially important against the backdrop of today’s headlines. Having our successor generation learn more about other countries and societies while serving as cultural ambassadors to their peers enables young Americans to contribute directly to creating a more peaceful world.
(Note: IIEs Open Doors report includes only students who studied outside of the United States and excludes students who studied off-campus but within the United States. Consequently, IIE reports that St. Thomas sent 644 students abroad in 2001-2002. St. Thomas reports 735 students abroad for the year 2001-2002, a number that includes all students off-campus through the International Education Center.)