More Elis go overseas

Yale’s fall 2006 study abroad enrollment increased 40 percent from last fall’s, according to preliminary statistics from the Yale International Education and Fellowship Programs office, far exceeding a nationwide increase in the number of American college students studying abroad.

A report released Monday by the national research group Institute of International Education indicates that the number of American students studying abroad grew by eight percent compared to last year. In addition, the decline in international student enrollment at American universities since 9/11 has stabilized, according to the IIE’s annual “Open Doors” report, which includes statistics through the 2005-’06 academic year. The number of international students studying in America for the first time grew by eight percent nationally last year, while Yale itself had a 15 percent increase in its enrollment of international graduate and undergraduate students in that time.

Daniel Obst, IIE director of membership and higher education services, said he believes more Americans are studying abroad because they recognize the importance of a global education. Students are realizing that spending time in another country learning a foreign language and interacting with a different culture will be vitally important to their future careers, Obst said.

Jane Edwards, Yale’s associate dean for international affairs, said IEFP is working with cultural organizations on campus as well as with Yale faculty advisers to show students that study abroad is not only possible but worthwhile.

“This is the time of your life that you can have this experience [of going abroad],” Edwards said. “It’s really an important part of living in this globalized world.”

Students said the experience of integrating into a foreign culture while studying abroad was rewarding, although some encountered obstacles.

Veronica Wallace ’08 was a member of the class of 2007, but she will graduate a year later than expected because she was not awarded academic credit for the study abroad program she completed in Italy last spring. While she could have received credit through programs endorsed by IEFP, she said her experience was valuable nevertheless because it temporarily removed her from Yale’s intense atmosphere and allowed her to focus on her immersion in Italian culture.

Ronel Namde ’07, who spent the spring semester of her junior year in Jordan, said her stay with a local family made her feel at ease in the Middle Eastern nation. The ability to see Yale and the United States from a new standpoint contributed immeasurably to her education, she said.

“It was a different and eye-opening experience to get a perspective on the world you don’t get here,” Namde said.

The number of Yale students studying abroad during the academic year has grown from 91 in 2000-’01 to 121 in 2005-’06, representing a long-term growth of 33 percent.

But some students said they do not want to pursue study abroad opportunities due to the many resources available to them on Yale’s campus.

Paul Spera ’08 said his involvement in Yale activities made him reluctant to go abroad during the academic year.

“I’m pretty involved in theater and didn’t want to miss out on that,” he said. “I guess there are theater-related programs offered in other countries like England, but I didn’t see them as better than [those offered] here.”

For the 2005-2006 academic year, there were 2,019 international graduate and undergraduate students at Yale, according to the report, a 15 percent increase from the 1,759 international students enrolled the previous year.

Obst said there are a number of factors contributing to the end of the decline in international student enrollment and a possible rise in future years, as is predicted by the report. He cited the more expeditious process for attaining a visa, a task that was difficult in the years immediately following September 11th, along with the efforts of the U.S. State Department and private organizations to fund fellowships and aid programs.

While the number of international students studying in America peaked three years ago with a total of 586,323, the number declined by 2.4 percent and 1.3 percent in the past two years, according to the report.

Hundreds of universities are also becoming more proactive in their international recruitment, Obst said, hosting information sessions in countries like China and India, but also in areas that traditionally send fewer students to America, such as Vietnam.

“This is a really clear sign that institutions are willing to go out, spend money and tell students they are welcome in America,” Obst said.

International students at Yale applauded the recent steps the University has taken to smooth their transitions to the United States and give them a supportive network on campus.

Saad Rizvi ’08, a Pakistani member of the International Students Organization and head counselor for the Orientation for International Students, said President Richard Levin’s initiative to make Yale a “global university” and Yale’s policy of need-blind financial aid are key factors in making the University a realistic option for foreign students.

Rizvi said the Office of International Students and Scholars aids students with their visas and other problems. OISS also funds meals over the Thanksgiving and Spring Breaks for students who cannot return home, he said, and obtains hotel rooms for them over Christmas Break. The on-campus exchange between international and American students is a benefit of the Yale experience, Rizvi said.

“Whether it’s through an event or a conversation in Commons, you can learn so much about [the other person’s] culture,” he said. “Having an exchange of ideas and information is very fruitful in making us all better global citizens.”

The overall the number of American students studying abroad has risen steadily by a total of 144 percent in the last decade.

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