Interest stays high for study abroad

Although the events of Sept. 11 have left many Americans wary of traveling abroad, Yale students are more eager than ever to explore opportunities outside of the country.

While Yale does not traditionally have many students study abroad, record attendance at this year’s International Opportunities Fair suggests that trend may be about to end.

The event’s organizers were surprised that over 700 students attended the Oct. 19 fair, as many had assumed the numbers of students interested in international opportunities would decline in light of the terrorist attacks.

“The fair was absolutely fabulous,” said Karyn Jones, associate director of International Education and Fellowship Programs. “The number of attendees definitely did not indicate that there was less interest in international opportunities in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy.”

This year’s fair was one of the largest ever, with representatives from over 50 different study abroad and international fellowship organizations in attendance. Officials could only speculate as to why there is a sudden increase in interest for international opportunities.

“It’s hard to identify a single cause for the increase in interest over the past year,” said Philip Jones, director of Undergraduate Career Services. “Yalies have always been interested in adventurous experiences, so we should never be surprised that so many think about working overseas or attending top foreign graduate schools.”

Karyn Jones added that students may be trying to better understand their place in the world in the aftermath of the tragedy.

“The State Department was mobbed during the fair,” said Karyn Jones. “This may give some indication that students are trying to figure out what is going on in the world today and what they can do to help.”

Following the terrorist attacks and this summer’s temporary disappearance of Natasha Smalls ’02, who was studying in South Africa, student security has become a primary concern. But Undergraduate Career Services staff said they are confident in the safety of their programs.

“As to whether it is safe for Yale students to go abroad, nobody can really predict what is happening,” said Karyn Jones. “The programs that we send our students on take very good care of them. All the programs have emergency protocols, and we are also constantly in touch with the State Department for new developments.”

Although Karyn Jones insisted the programs themselves are safe, she added that students must also take responsibility for their own safety.

“Of course, students need to be careful,” said Karyn Jones. “They should do research well ahead of time in order to learn how to be as much a part of the culture as possible.”

Yale juniors and seniors are not the only ones looking to go abroad. Many Yale underclassmen are also looking ahead into their college careers.

“My mom doesn’t want me to go anywhere,” said Marisa Benoit ’05. “But I’m not worried. I would still love to go abroad.”

This year’s successful International Opportunities Fair has left Undergraduate Career Services staff pleased that so many students are interested in going abroad.

“I am actually very heartened that students are looking at getting international experience,” said Karyn Jones. “This really shows that students are interested in gaining an international perspective as well as learning how to appreciate different points of view. These are attributes that are especially important in the world we now live.”

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