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UI students find ways to study abroad despite economy

BY NINA EARNEST | DECEMBER 02, 2010 7:20 AM

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Despite harsh economic times, University of Iowa students are continuing to find the means to study overseas.

Nationwide, the number of students who studied abroad for credit dropped slightlyin2008-09—the first time such a decrease has occurred since the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange first released numbers 25 years ago.

Contrary to the national decrease, the number of UI students going overseas continues to increase. Offi- cials attribute this to the school's strong publicity of study abroad programs and UI students' ability to find more affordable ways to go to another country.

The institute reported in November the number of American students study- ing abroad decreased 0.8 percent in 2008-2009, while 5.3 percent more UI students studied abroad.

One effect to the national decrease, some say, is the result of a poor economy.

"The serious economic challenges that American families and U.S. campus- es were facing in 2008 cer- tainly affected participa- tionratesinstudyabroad that year," Peggy Blumen- thal, the executive vice president and chief operat- ing officer of the Institute of International Educa- tion, which compiles the report, wrote in an e-mail.

The economic downturn has led American stu- dents to pursue opportu- nities in nontraditional destinations in more affordable locations out- side of Western Europe, Blumenthal said.

UI junior Robin Arm- strong studied abroad in Chile last spring. She said she didn't consider Spain — a traditional study- abroad destination — as an option because of the high cost of the programs and the high cost of living.

"College students are looking for affordability," she said.

The UI seems to support studying abroad more than other students' col- leges, she said.

"As soon as I got [to the UI], there was a lot of encouragement," Arm- strong said.

Philip Carls, an assis- tant director of the Office for Study Abroad, said the increase in the number of students going abroad, despite the economy, is partly due to study- abroad promotion in the university.

"The interest of the administration and insti- tution as a whole to pro- mote study abroad is defi- nitely a factor in increas- ing numbers," Carls said. "Study abroad is a collec- tive enterprise."

Peter McPherson, the president of the Associa- tion of Public and Land- Grant Universities, said
many schools in the Big Ten made giving their stu- dents an international experience a priority. The effects have been particu- larly strong at the UI.

"The emphasis Iowa has put on study abroad is impressive, and it is pay- ing off relative to many other schools in the coun- try,"hesaid.

Carls said he was pleased with the UI num- bers considering many people in the country have faced a "tough stretch" eco- nomically.

According to the UI 2008-09 study abroad report, 1,283 UI under- graduate, graduate, and professional students studied abroad that year.

Numbers for the 2009- 10 academic year for UI students studying abroad are still being processed, Carls said, though they appear to have remained steady.


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