The number of Yalies studying abroad during the academic year decreased by 22 percent in 2007-08, Yale International Education and Fellowships Programs administrators announced this week, speculating that the cause may be a shift to more overseas summer program participation.
The decrease — from 180 students in 2006-07 to 141 students this school year — brings the study-abroad total back to the level in 2005-06, when 135 students studied abroad. The decline also puts Yale at odds with the national trend of steadily increasing participation in study abroad programs.
In the 2005-06 academic year, 8.5 percent more American students studied abroad than in the previous year, according to a November Institute of International Education report.
IEFP Study Abroad Director Karyn Jones said she has no hard-and-fast explanation for this year’s decline in study-abroad enrollment, but that it may be due to the increasing popularity of summer study-abroad programs.
“The summer numbers are skyrocketing,” Jones said. “That may well account for the fact that the [academic year] numbers are dropping, although any student who’s done study abroad during the year will say that it’s a totally different experience.”
Last summer, 393 students studied abroad with Yale Summer Session and other study abroad programs, including those unaffiliated with Yale — a 66.5 percent increase from summer 2005, when 236 students studied abroad.
This year, 43 students studied abroad for the fall semester, 85 for the spring semester and 13 for the entire year. The number for the fall semester is lower than previously reported because some students decided to extend their studies for a full year, Jones said.
In the second year sophomores have been allowed to study abroad on non-Yale programs for full credit, the number of sophomores going abroad dropped, from 28 to 23.
As in past years, the most popular study abroad destinations this year were countries in Western Europe and China, Jones said.
Consistent with national trends, far more women than men study abroad at Yale. This year, 99 women studied abroad, compared to 42 men.
Daniel Obst, director of membership and higher education service at the IIE, said the trend is a holdover from views in the early 1900s that only women interested in the humanities should study abroad — the classic Parisian semester spent painting along the Seine.
But efforts to diversify the study abroad population are finally beginning to take hold, he said.
“We are seeing a push to make sure that there is a more diverse picture in terms of gender, race and academic fields,” Obst said.
Science and engineering majors have particular difficulty going abroad, Obst said, unless the study-abroad system is well integrated into the school’s curriculum.
Yale students who have studied abroad say they wish more of their classmates would take a semester or two away from New Haven.
Kyle Le Croy ’08, who spent last year at Worcester College, Oxford, said students often shy away from studying abroad because they do not want to pass up certain activities at Yale.
“There are definitely some things you miss out on,” Le Croy said. “But after two years, you understand what the Yale experience is like. I think there’s a strong argument for being immersed in a different language or living in a different culture.”
In addition to encouraging Yalies to sign up for study-abroad programs, IEFP now has a new task: launching an investigation into the University’s study-abroad practices.
Yale announced earlier this week that it would cooperate with a request from Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 for records pertaining to its study-abroad programs as part of a probe into whether officials at universities around the state received kickbacks from study-abroad companies.
In a statement Monday, the University said it believes its practices have been and continue to be ethically sound.