Although students considering studying abroad during their college career know they are not alone, a new report shows just how common the decision is for Oberlin students. According to the report, Oberlin had the second-highest number of students studying abroad this year among baccalaureate institutions.
On Nov. 16, the Institute of International Education released the 2009 edition of its Open Doors Report on International Exchange. In this year’s report, Oberlin stood out with 616 students going abroad this past year.
Although bested by Minnesota’s Saint Olaf College, Oberlin received special commendation as one of 23 colleges or universities nationwide to send more than 80 percent of its total student population abroad.
The rise in students interested in studying internationally is not restricted to Oberlin. The 2007–2008 year saw a record 262,416 U.S. students studying abroad, an 8.5 percent increase from the previous year. The trend works both ways, with many international students opting to study in the U.S. — the 2008–2009 school year saw a record 671,616 foreign students enrolling in U.S. colleges and universities.
It is unclear whether current economic conditions will affect this upward trend in students’ studying abroad. Because study abroad plans are made well in advance — generally several months before the semester in question — the report does not contain data compiled after the economic crash in 2008.
According to Associate Dean of Studies and Director of Programs for International Study Ellen Sayles, national economic conditions have not affected the number of study abroad applications submitted. “We actually saw similar increases in applications for study abroad for the 2009–2010 year, and it was a big increase,” said Sayles.
Although Oberlin received 343 applicants this year, up from last year’s total of 321, Sayles insists these numbers are deceptive. “A lot of students who were approved to go changed their plans. … The number of students who will actually go is about the same as last year,” Sayles said. She suspects that money is to blame with students who change their minds, but intends to survey applicants to determine exactly why they decided to stay on campus.
According to College President Marvin Krislov, “It’s something that many, many, many, many people feel is intrinsic to a good liberal arts education. I don’t think that it’s necessarily the right thing for everyone, but I certainly think it’s great that we have a lot of students who do it and that we provide the support so that they can do it.”