On the road again

Travel fears aren't deterring students from studying abroad

By Greg Scheiderer

These days, it seems that neither war, nor terrorism, nor SARS, nor a shaky economy will keep a student from her appointed study-abroad program. In fact, more college students are earning credit overseas than ever before.

The latest figures from the Institute of International Education (IIE) show that, for the 2001–02 academic year, 4.4 percent more students received credit for study abroad than in the previous year. The raw numbers reached a record 160,920.

That growth was not quite as steep as the previous year’s 7.4 percent, but it is still a strong indicator of tremendous interest. Participation has more than doubled in the last decade.

The study-abroad program at Puget Sound mirrors that trend. During the 1990–91 academic year, 119 students studied abroad. Last year it was 236, including a contingent of 20 who were on the road in the Pacific Rim/Asia Study-Travel Program. The number may reach about 250 this year.

Typically in recent years, about a third of each class has studied abroad. Jannie Meisberger, director of international programs at the college, says that number appears poised to grow.

“The past several years, 52 percent of incoming freshmen have said they plan to study abroad,” Meisberger said. “They are not thinking about it, they plan to. That’s a pretty substantial number.” The typical freshman class is around 650.

Meisberger says many Puget Sound students have study abroad experiences before they get to college, through programs such as Rotary scholarships, Habitat for Humanity, or their language studies. Many of their parents did international study, or they’ve traveled to do volunteer or church mission work.

“Students want an international experience,” Meisberger said. “They consider it part of their education.”

Meisberger added that many of Puget Sound’s degree programs and departments have an international emphasis and enjoy mutually supportive relationships with International Programs.

“If you’re doing an international business degree or an international political economy degree, it makes sense,” she said. “You need to have an experience overseas.”