For the third consecutive year, the total number of Yale students who pursued international internships or some form of research or academic study outside the United States has declined, according to the Center for International and Professional Experience’s annual report.
The report, released last week, said that 1,254 students pursued international internships, research projects, summer programs or study abroad during the 2012-’13 academic year. This figure represents a slight drop from the previous two years, as the 2011-’12 and 2010-’11 academic years saw numbers of 1,280 and 1,308 respectively. CIPE administrators interviewed said they were not surprised by the report’s data, adding that they do not view the slight decline in students participating in international experiences as a cause for concern.
“[CIPE] is no longer in a position where we’re looking to drive up numbers for just the sake of driving them up,” said Jane Edwards, dean of international and professional experiences and senior associate dean of Yale College. “We want to make sure that students’ experiences and the programs they participate in are meaningful, beneficial and rigorous,”
William Whobrey, dean of Yale Summer Session, said CIPE’s priority is to ensure that students who want an international experience can find one that caters to their needs and is academically challenging.
According to the report, one of the biggest drops was in participation in non-Yale affiliated summer study programs — from 402 participants in 2011-’12 to 343 last year. The other area of decline was academic year study abroad programs. One hundred and forty-seven students took one or both academic semesters off last year to study overseas compared to the 160 the office had recorded in the 2011-’12 year.
Edwards said the dip in students participating in these programs could be attributed to CIPE staff turnovers during the 2012-’13 academic year. Last year, two employees of CIPE — Cristin Siebert and Karyn Jones — left their respective posts for other opportunities. Siebert was Yale Summer Session director of academic programs abroad and Karyn Jones was director of study abroad for designated non-Yale study abroad programs for year and term. Without these two women, Edwards said CIPE was unable to advise as many students as it had in prior years.
“Without having the time to consult with advisors and see all their options, it makes sense that not as many students chose to study abroad this term,” she said.
Edwards added that CIPE has since replaced its outgoing personnel and is now fully-staffed.
Although year to year numbers may fluctuate, all four administrators in CIPE interviewed said it is likely that the number of students who pursue international opportunities or experiences will grow in the coming years as the global economy recovers and becomes even more interconnected.
Still, Katie Bell, deputy director of CIPE, said the office saw the departure of Jones and Siebert as an opportunity to streamline the process by which students are advised on international experiences. In prior years, Bell said Siebert reported to Yale Summer Session, an office within CIPE, and her responsibilities included all faculty-led summer abroad programs. Jones was responsible for dealing with students who chose to study abroad during an academic term or year.
“After [Jones and Siebert] left, we decided to take this as an opportunity to consolidate Summer Session and term and year study abroad into one office that reports directly to dean Edwards,” Bell said.
Edwards added that although finding new staff was a lengthy process, the revised study abroad structure will enhance CIPE’s efficiency.
Tina Johnson, who joined CIPE this year as the newly created director of all study abroad programs, said this change will also improve the advice students are receiving.
“Each student who is considering study abroad also has financial and academic considerations that are unique to him or her,” Johnson said.
She added that because of these varying circumstances, it might make more sense for some students to study abroad during an academic term or over the summer.
Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor and advisor at the Institute for International Education, said the declining number of students either studying or interning abroad is typical of broader national trends. Many students are still affected by the poor economy, she said. She added that internship opportunities have been particularly affected in Europe, as many previously popular destinations such as Spain are facing economic hardships.
Director of Undergraduate Career Services Jeanine Dames said it is possible that fewer students may be pursuing study abroad programs either in the summer or in the academic year because more international internship opportunities are opening up each year. She added that UCS continues to expand its international internship offerings both in terms of geography and the type of jobs which students can pursue. Still, Dames said more data needs to be accumulated.
Edwards said she is looking to expand the number of opportunities for students to study STEM subjects abroad. She added that the office is continually in dialogue with faculty to encourage more departments to permit students to take more courses overseas for credit at Yale.
Both Edwards and Bell added that they hope more opportunities for students to study Arabic will arise in the future. Only eight students studied Arabic abroad during the 2012-’13 academic year compared to 109 students studying Chinese abroad. Blumenthal said Yale’s difficulty in providing such opportunities for its students is emblematic of broader national problems, adding that many Arabic-speaking countries are too dangerous for schools to establish summer programs in.
Johnson said she hopes more students will take the opportunity to study abroad during the academic year, adding that the relatively small number of Yale undergraduates who study abroad was the one big culture shock she experienced in transitioning to Yale from her previous position as head of the study abroad program at Randolph College in Virginia.
But all three students interviewed said it was unlikely that study abroad during the academic year will become common at Yale.
Gabriel Reynoso-Palley ’16 said he studied abroad in France last summer because he knew his extracurricular commitments did not allow him to study abroad during an academic year.
Roger Pellegrino ’16 said many students believe their time at Yale is too limited to spend an entire semester abroad.
The number of students participating in international experiences peaked in the 2009-’10 academic year with 1,317 students.