Fifteen sophomores have applied to study abroad with non-Yale-affiliated programs during the spring semester, University administrators said Tuesday.

The Class of 2009 is the first to take advantage of the April decision by Yale faculty to expand the window of opportunity for undergraduate study abroad, which is traditionally during junior year, to include also the second semester of sophomore year, although students will still receive Yale credit and financial aid for a maximum of two semesters abroad. In addition to the 15 sophomore applications, Yale International Educational and Fellowship Programs received 73 applications from juniors to study abroad with non-Yale programs this spring.

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In addition to those who will attend non-Yale programs, six sophomores are among the the 11 Yale students who will be studying with the Peking University-Yale University Joint Undergraduate Program in Beijing this spring. There is one sophomore among the four students participating in next semester’s Richard U. Light Fellowship Program for East Asian language study, IEFP representatives said.

Karyn Jones, director of the study abroad program for Yale College, said she considers 15 applications an encouraging number for the inaugural semester of this new option.

Although sophomores were already able to study abroad with University-sponsored programs, such as the Peking program, the administration decided to open non-Yale options to sophomores in order to make study abroad more accessible to all students and to allow students to remain on campus during their junior year, Jones said. She said juniors sometimes forgo study abroad in order to fulfill major requirements and take on leadership positions in extracurricular activities.

“It’s tough for many students to go abroad junior year unless they map it out from day one,” Jones said.

But juniors are not alone in their concerns about their academic schedules. PKU Joint Program Coordinator Cameron Gearen said sophomores often worry about going abroad while still meeting distributional requirements to achieve junior standing.

“One thing we have been trying to address to make it as appealing to sophomores as possible is to offer classes in a broad range of subject matter so they can fulfill requirements while they’re [in Peking],” she said.

This spring the PKU program will offer classes in history of art, East Asian languages and literatures, political science, economics and nanotechnology, among others, Gearen said.

Students who applied to study abroad as sophomores rather than juniors said they did so for a variety of reasons.

Carina Del Valle Schorske ’09, who will study in Buenos Aires, Argentina, said traveling abroad earlier in her Yale career will allow her to apply the benefits of her experience in her junior and senior years.

“A foreign university offers a new experience, a new educational system, and forces you to think in ways that Yale does not,” she said. “There are things to learn culturally and intellectually that don’t have to do with particular courses being offered.”

Rebecca Eisenbrey ’09 said her plan to spend semesters in both Paris and Russia as part of a double major motivated her to start early. She wanted to be on campus for at least one semester next year to spend time with friends in the class of 2008 and to seek extracurricular leadership roles, she said.

Other sophomores said academic obligations could be prohibitive in deciding whether to spend time away from Yale.

Liam Leonard ’09, who plans to study at PKU this spring, said his indecision in choosing a major and desire to study abroad contributed to scheduling difficulties this year.

“I experimented my freshman year and didn’t really focus on distributional requirements, so this semester I had to overload myself with more credits than I would have liked to make sure I fulfilled my distributional requirements before I left,” he said.

Science majors in particular said they find study abroad during the academic year nearly impossible because of rigid course requirements. Robin Wagner ’09 said she is considering studying abroad only during the summer due to the number of prerequisites for junior year classes in the biomedical engineering major.

But Eisenbrey, who is majoring in French and Slavic languages and literatures, said the process has gone smoothly for her.

“I don’t think it’s as hard as people say it is to study abroad,” Eisenbrey said. “I found it painless, and my major departments helped me out, so there was no reason not to.”

Jones said she hopes the number of sophomores who decide to study abroad will increase in coming years.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to open that door to people who thought they couldn’t do it,” she said.

Harvard and Princeton Universities also offer sophomores the option of studying abroad during the spring term.

This fall Yale saw a 40 percent increase from fall 2005 in the number of students choosing to study abroad. During the 2005-2006 school year, 121 students studied abroad either for a semester or the whole year.