Despite international turmoil, student interest in the University’s study abroad programs remained consistent this year.
Yale Study Abroad received 90 applications last Wednesday night for the Spring 2015 semester, a number consistent with last year’s applications, according to Director of Study Abroad Tina Kirk. Last spring, the department sent 82 students abroad to over 25 different countries. However, because the applications are not binding, it is not clear exactly how many students will end up actually traveling abroad for the spring 2015 semester, Kirk said.
Still, despite turbulent situations from Ukraine to Liberia, she warned against making decisions to study abroad based on media reports that may be sensationalized.
“I think that it’s incumbent upon all of us to actually pay attention to the news sources that we’re reading to try to get a clearer and better picture of what’s actually happening and sometimes we may not know,” Kirk said. “We’re not there, and the news may be actually very balanced about what’s happening in a region. It’s hard to say when you’re not on the ground.”
According to Kirk, there were three, two and six participants last year in programs in Israel, Russia and Africa, respectively. This year, there were four, one and five applications for those locations.
After violence broke along the Ukrainian-Russian border, the State Department advised U.S. citizens to avoid large public demonstrations in Russia, noting that U.S. diplomatic facilities have been a common target for protests.
As of Sept. 10, the U.S. State Department has asked that potential travelers take into account “the risks of traveling to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza due to the complex security environment there, and the potential for violence and renewed hostilities.”
And last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against non-essential travel to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea because of the Ebola virus disease outbreak.
Still, there was no general consensus among students and faculty interviewed whether current events in high-profile regions like Israel, Russia and Africa would impact study abroad enrollment.
Folake Ogunmola ’15 said she believes that students already interested in studying abroad will not allow current events to color their decisions.
Likewise, Josh Altman ’17 said he believes that study abroad enrollment would not be significantly affected.
Others suggested that recent tension between the U.S. and Russia would make it a more interesting environment for academic study.
“My prediction is that there will probably be more [participants],” said Sydney Treuer ’15, who spent all of last year studying in Irkutsk. “Now that it’s interesting and maybe a bit more applicable to politics and world affairs, people might be more interested.”
Professor Constantine Muravnik, a senior lector in Russian who runs the Yale Summer Session in St. Petersburg, said he would not be surprised if interest in Russian study abroad programs rose because of the geopolitical tensions.
The recent conflict between Hamas and Israel might have also increased student interest, professor Shiri Goren, a senior lector in the Modern Hebrew Program, said.
“I do know some students who are as interested [in studying in Israel] as they were before or perhaps even more interested because the area becomes more attractive to some of them,” Goren said.
While students can still travel to Russia and Israel, Yale has restricted travel for Yale College students to Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria due to the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease. According to the Center for International and Professional Experience website, the University will not fund or award credit for undergraduate work in any country to which the U.S. State Department advises U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel.
Morocco and South Africa, the only two African nations to receive spring semester study abroad applications, both have zero confirmed cases of Ebola.