Monday, April 29, 2002

Students still eager to go abroad

Threat of terror attacks don't deter area travelers

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As the study-abroad season reaches its peak, there appears to be no letup in the number of Tristate students packing their bags this year to head overseas.

        College and university officials say their numbers have remained steady despite events of Sept. 11, the worst terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, and the recent upswing in violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

        “Nobody had any idea what to expect,” said Margaret McDiarmid, director of study abroad programs at Xavier University. “Students, for the most part, don't have a care in the world. It's the parents you hear from.”

        But Xavier's participation rate remains strong: 96 students this year compared to 97 in 2001.

        Eric Crowley, a sophomore business management major at Xavier, will head to Spain for 2 1/2 months to study Spanish. The 20-year-old Wooster, Ohio, native took the foreign language in both grade and high school but still isn't fluent.

        “A lot of companies are now looking for people who are bilingual,” he said. “Hopefully, I'll improve my chances in the job market.”

        At the University of Cincinnati, combined enrollment for 15 programs has climbed 20 percent, from 276 last year to 333 students this summer.

        “There are more than ever staying for longer periods of time,” said Arthur Neisberg, UC's education abroad director.

        But Mr. Neisberg said he couldn't explain why.

        According to Open Doors 2001 — the annual report on education abroad published by the Institute of International Education — the number of U.S. college students receiving credit for study overseas in 1999-2000 jumped nearly 11 percent from the previous year, reaching a record of 143,590.

        In the past five years the number of U.S. students who studied abroad for academic credit has increased by 61 percent.

        “9-11 or the plane crash in Italy (April 18 in Milan) have not changed people's minds about going overseas,” said Allan Goodman, president and CEO of the institute. “In the last five years, Americans have discovered the world, particularly American students.”

        In the same report, the institute released online survey results that showed 97 percent of the 600 international education professionals responding thought that international education, including study abroad, was regarded as more important or equally as important in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

        The survey suggested that most American students were going ahead with plans to study abroad and few international students were dropping out of U.S. study programs to return home.

        “Nobody is writing us from colleges or universities saying it's unsafe to go abroad this summer or there's not interest or because of safety and security,” Mr. Goodman said.

        “With the exception of Israel, study abroad and summer programs are not being canceled.”

        Miami University, which sends more students abroad than any institution of its type (doctoral, but not a major research institution), has seen a slight drop in participation.

        The school won't know total enrollment numbers until August but typically sends about 750 students abroad each summer.

        “My guess is we'll be a little short of that,” said Jim Pollicita, director of continuing education at Miami.

        Three programs were canceled, two because of lack of participation and one because of political instability in Nepal.


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