The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 29, 2012

Study abroad grows by becoming smaller



The shorter trips are also part of the reason a two-year dip in the number of MSU students choosing to study abroad is rebounding, Lindsay said. During the 2011-12 school year, of the 235 students studying abroad, 162 or 69 percent opted for trips that were 12 weeks or less.

Nationally, the number of students studying abroad has dropped more than 7 percent since the 2008-09 school year when the recession hit, according to a recent study by the Institute of International Education. The number of MSU students studying abroad dropped about 40 percent from a high of 338 students during the 2008-09 school to a seven-year low of 212 during the 2010-11 school year.

Lindsay said the recession made it more difficult for students to afford the extra costs of studying overseas. But last year’s numbers are stronger, with 235 MSU students having studied abroad. (See accompanying chart.)

The shorter trips are more popular for a variety of other reasons, Lindsay said, including cost, which can range from $1,500 to $5,000. Many students still require financial aid to pay for the trips, Lindsay said, including grants and loans. Although scholarships are available to some.

Another reason is that many first-time travelers want to try a shorter international trip first, with the help of a professor who serves as their guide, and then perhaps go on longer semester- or year-long trips afterward.

“I would hope that they’re also understanding the importance of this experience, and to do it during their years at the university is in every way less expensive than if they waited until after (college),” Lindsay said.

With faculty members organizing and planning them, the ease of travel is another reason for the popularity of shorter trips. Lindsay said internship opportunities abroad and exchange programs developed with partner universities provide affordable, unique academic opportunities for students.

“I think the students understand that their world is really changing, that you just look around Mankato and you see people from all over the world here,” Lindsay said. “I think the students are starting to understand they need to know what’s going on outside of Minnesota, and outside of the U.S.”

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