Overseas study program popularity increases on IU campuses
By Kate Thacker
Kathleen Sideli, associate vice president for overseas study, said 2,841 students in the IU system studied abroad during the 2009-10 school year, an 11 percent increase from the year before. Of those students, 2,190 were IUB students.
Spain is the most popular country where IU students study abroad, according to the most recent data released from the Office of Overseas Study.
The United Kingdom is the most popular study abroad country nationwide and the second most popular at IU. Sideli attributed this to the long-standing relationship the U.K. has with the U.S.
Other European countries, such as Italy (No. 3) and France (No. 5), have been consistently popular study abroad destinations for IU students.
“Italy is kind of seen as the center of Europe, so students have a wide variety of experiences while they’re in Italy,” Sideli said. “Some are interested in the language, but it’s not as much of the language draw as Spain.”
Senior Alexa Schutz, a double major in French and international studies, spent the 2010-11 academic year in Aix-en-Provence, France, through an IU program.
“Language barriers break down once you get there,” Schutz said. “I was expecting to leave at a great level of French, and I definitely did. You not only learn more about yourself but also their culture and your culture through the differences and similarities.”
Sideli said it is exciting to see China as the fourth most popular study abroad country for the first time in ’09-’10.
“China is perceived as a place you need to understand to be a globalized citizen today,” Sideli said. “We have a lot of short-term programs that go to China for business and journalism students. Those programs are much more discipline-specific, in addition to some traditional language learning programs.”
Schools, such as the Kelley School of Business, that offer their own study abroad opportunities must have programs approved by the Overseas Study Advisory Council, a group of about 15 faculty members who look at program proposals.
“Indiana University has a very centralized policy in terms of program approval, so proposals across all eight campuses of Indiana University have a certain conformity in terms of academic quality, safety and security issues (and) directors receiving the appropriate resources,” Sideli said. “We work very closely with them, even though the schools administer those programs.”
Sideli said IU administered or co-sponsored study abroad programs count for direct credit. This means courses taken abroad will be calculated into a student’s GPA.
Equivalency lists are available at the Office of Overseas Study and online for courses that can count toward a major, minor or distribution requirement.
Last year, the Office of Overseas Study went to a paperless system where all parts of a study abroad application — including essays, agreement forms and letters of recommendation — go through its website.
Schutz said her application process included a language placement exam, writing an essay in English and French, two letters of recommendation and an interview.
She encouraged students to take the opportunity to study abroad, even if it’s to an English speaking country or for a short period of time.
“For anyone who wishes to go abroad, go as long as your degree allows,” Schutz said. “Just going abroad for a summer is great, but it’s the biggest bang for your buck to go abroad for an academic year.”
IU allows students to use financial aid and loan money abroad.
Sideli said there is about $1 million of overseas-study- specific scholarships available to students, including Hutton Honors College’s International Experience Grant program.
“We’re very proud that 25 percent of Bloomington students graduate from IU having an international educational experience for credit,” Sideli said.
“President McRobbie is very supportive of study abroad, so we have been encouraged to even increase those numbers further. We think for a student today to have a bachelor’s degree, they should have international experience.”
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