Participation in Yale’s Junior Year or Term Abroad program is up more than 40 percent from last year, defying a recent national trend of plateauing American interest in international education.
Nationwide, the number of college students receiving credit for study abroad only increased 4 percent in the 2001-2002 academic year — the most recent year with available data — after increasing 7 percent the year before.
Karyn Jones, associate director of Yale’s International Education and Fellowship Programs, said 114 Yale students are currently scheduled to participate in Junior Year or Term Abroad program this year, up from 81 last year. The Junior Year and Term Abroad program is the only opportunity for Yale students to earn full University credit for international study.
“Word is getting out to Yale,” Jones, who is also a study abroad advisor, said. “You can leave Yale and really have a great experience. You’re going to experience things that you don’t have a chance to experience in New Haven.”
The National Association of Foreign Student Advisers issued a report on Nov. 18 claiming provincialism is an urgent danger in America. The group cited shortages of translators in the Army, FBI, and departments of State and Commerce as examples of the perceived threat.
The report called for the establishment of a federally-funded “Lincoln Fellowship” which would have an annual budget of $3.5 billion and would offer students stipends of up to $7,000 a year to study abroad for a summer or semester. The fellowship, according to planners, would increase the number of Americans studying abroad each year from 160,920 to 500,000.
But Yale’s international education programs have thrived without such programs because, as is the case with many private colleges, financial aid packages at Yale can be applied to study abroad programs.
“That makes a big difference,” Jones said. “A lot of schools don’t transfer [aid to students studying abroad].”
Jones identified the success of the International Opportunities Fair, which drew 560 people this year, as another reason for the increased interest. She also said the jump in participation could be attributed to the heightened visibility of peer advisors — students who hold regular office hours in residential colleges to share their study abroad experiences.
“The fact they’re in the colleges is a valuable resource,” Jones said.
Despite this year’s boom, Yale lags far behind some universities with respect to the percentage of students who study abroad for credit. Yeshiva University, where 74.5 percent of students choose to earn international course credit, ranked higher than every other research institution in the 2001-2002 academic year, Institute of International Education data said. Next were Georgetown, Notre Dame and Duke, each with about 50 percent.
IEFP Director Barbara Rowe said Yale’s percentage would be higher except many students already travel abroad without getting credit from Yale.
“Many students travel during summer but don’t see credit, or take a leave of absence,” she said. “I think it’s up to 30 percent [of students who] identify themselves as having an international experience.”
Alexis Ortiz ’04, who is now a peer advisor, spent last semester studying at the University of Havana and traveling throughout Cuba.
“I decided to go abroad because when you’re a student you have an opportunity to spend a lot of time immersing yourself in another culture,” Ortiz said.
Despite being in Havana at a time when American policies drew fire because of the war in Iraq, Ortiz said she experienced no animosity during her travels.
“Especially in Cuba, people realize that the government doesn’t necessarily represent the people as a whole,” she said. “I never had anyone say anything negative to me personally about being American.”
Jones said that she has received no complaints this year from students experiencing anti-American backlash while studying abroad.
“Anti-Americanism, our students have found, is anti-American government, not anti-’Yale student studying abroad in Paris,’” she said.
Jones said IEFP prohibits Yale students from studying in dozens of countries deemed too dangerous. She said the University offers pre-departure safety tips for those who do venture to other countries.
“All programs are going to talk to students about the basics, like not wearing your Yale sweatshirt,” Jones said.