«Title: STUDY ABROAD AS A PASSPORT TO STUDENT LEARNING: DOES THE DURATION OF THE STUDY ABROAD PROGRAM MATTER? Jill M. Neppel, Master of Arts, 2005 ...»
Before providing a detailed breakdown of study abroad participation by field of academic study, however, it is prudent to note that some students, though not foreign language majors, may still be attempting to enhance their foreign language proficiency through a study abroad experience. At any rate, the Institute for International Education (2004) reports that the largest proportion of study abroad participants (21.3%) major in the Social Sciences. The next most popular fields of study among study abroad participants (in descending order) are: Business and Management (17.7%), Humanities (13.3%), Fine or Applied Arts (9.0%), Foreign Language (7.9%), Physical Sciences (7.1%), other (6.4%), Education (4.1%), Undeclared (3.5%), Health Sciences (3.1%), Engineering (2.9%), Math and Computer Sciences (2.4%), and Agriculture (1.5%).
Perhaps not entirely unrelated to the academic majors of study abroad participants is the gender disparity among study abroad participants. In 2002/03, 64.7% of study abroad participants were female, and only 35.3% were male (IIE, 2004); this gender disparity among study abroad participants has persisted for at least the last decade. This phenomenon coincides with the trend of women enrolling in higher education in numbers that far exceed those of men. The 1980s saw the number of female college students overtake the number of male college students for the first time (Astin & Kent, 1983; The New York Times, 1998), a trend that has not reversed since and does not appear likely to do so anytime soon. In 2002, 57% of all awarded bachelor’s degrees were conferred to women (Hacker, 2003), and the United States Department of Education has forecasted that by the year 2007, there will only be 6.9 million men enrolled in institutions of higher education compared with 9.2 million women (The New York Times). Furthermore, female students tend to cluster in the social sciences and humanities, at the expense of science and math, which are academic subjects perceived to be less conducive to studying abroad. For these two interrelated reasons, then, it is not surprising that the ratio of female study abroad participants is nearly twice as high as male study abroad participants.
With regards to race/ethnicity, there is also a noticeable disparity among study abroad participants. In fact, in 2002/03, 83.2% of study abroad participants were White/Caucasian, while 6.0% were Asian-American, 5.1% were Hispanic/Latino, 3.4% were Black/African-American, 1.8% were Multiracial, and.5% were Native American/American Indian (IIE, 2004).
Although it has been demonstrated that the demographic composition of study abroad participants is skewed (i.e., more study abroad participants are female than male, and more White students study abroad than any other racial/ethnic group), these numbers do indicate significant progress since the colonial period and even since the middle of the last century. These two trends, however, must be interpreted in entirely different manners. The fact that women study abroad in higher numbers than men indicates substantial progress for women, since they were largely excluded from international education until the 1960s and 1970s when they were granted greater access to higher education in general. However, responsible educators must now face the difficult question of why men do not enroll in international education at the same rate as women.
As for the disparity along racial/ethnic lines, this incongruity is more straightforward to understand due to the widely acknowledged barriers to study abroad (i.e., economic, cultural, social, and academic), as well as the general sense of inequality that is to date still inherent in higher education, and which puts members of minority racial and ethnic groups at a disadvantage (hooks, 1994; Pinkus, 2000). However, the fact that study abroad participants have become increasingly diverse since the origination of international education (when only affluent White males could be counted among those fortunate enough to study abroad), can still be justifiably looked at as progress. As such, many (e.g., IIE, 2004; Spencer & Tuma, 2002) would attribute this progress, (i.e., greater numbers of students studying abroad and increased access for both minority and majority students) to the increase in type and focus of study abroad programs, which will be the focus of a subsequent section.
Study abroad destinations. Another trend in the field of international education concerns the destinations where students are choosing to study. Educators and institutions alike are actively promoting the benefits of studying abroad in nontraditional locations (Jenkins, 2002); accordingly, the locations where students are choosing to study are indeed becoming more diverse (IIE, 2004; Jenkins; Marklein, 2003). According to the Open Doors Report 2004 (IIE), the following twenty countries hosted the largest number of U.S. American college students in 2002/03: the United Kingdom (31,706 students), Italy (18,936 students), Spain (18,865 students), France (13,080 students), Australia (10,691 students), Mexico (8,775 students), Germany (5,587 students), Ireland (4,892 students), Costa Rica (4,296 students), Japan (3,457 students), Austria (2,798 students), China (2,493), Greece (2,011 students), the Czech Republic (1,997 students), Chile (1,944 students), New Zealand (1,917 students), the Netherlands (1,792 students), South Africa (1,594 students), Ecuador (1,567 students), and Russia (1,521 students). This translates into 64% of study abroad participants studying in countries where English is not the native language (IIE). Of particular significance is the fact that each of the countries listed above, with the exception of China, witnessed substantial increases in the number of U.S. students they hosted since the preceding year, 2001/02 (IIE). Although Western and Eastern European countries saw a 9% rise in study abroad participants from the preceding year (bringing the total to 109,907 students), it is important to note that eleven of the most popular destinations are not located in Western Europe (IIE).
Furthermore, seven of these eleven destinations experienced double-digit growth (in percentage points) since the preceding year (IIE). Latin America also experienced a 14% rise in the number of study abroad participants (bringing the total number of students to 26,643); similarly, Australia and New Zealand experienced significant increases as well (IIE). African nations also experienced a 4% rise in the number of U.S. American students they hosted, and for the first time ever, Antarctica was a study abroad destination, hosting 18 U.S. American students (IIE).
Despite the overall increase in the number of students studying abroad, two world regions, in fact, hosted fewer U.S. American students in 2002/03 than in years past.
These world regions included Asia, which experienced an 11% decrease, and the Middle East, which experienced a decrease of 51% (IIE, 2004). The decrease in the number of students studying abroad in Asia can easily be explained by the outbreak of the SARS epidemic, which necessitated the cancellation of numerous spring and summer 2003 Asia study abroad programs (IIE). Furthermore, the precipitous decline in the number of U.S.
American students studying abroad in the Middle East could be attributed to the increasingly hostile relations between the United States and Middle Eastern countries, the war with Iraq, and the warnings by the U.S. State Department concerning the imminent threat of terrorist attacks against American citizens abroad (Dunbar, 2003; Farrelly, 2003;
IIE; U.S. Department of State, 2004). Furthermore, the persistent hostilities between Israel and Palestine, often manifested in attacks and suicide bombings, may have also contributed to the diminished interest in this world area as a study abroad destination.
Duration of study abroad programs. Another major trend in the field of international education, and which will be given prominent attention in this particular research study, concerns the amount of time that students actually spend abroad. While the number of U.S. American students participating in study abroad programs has risen dramatically over the last few decades, the amount of time that students actually spend abroad has decreased just as drastically (Dwyer & Peters, 2004; IIE, 2004; Spencer & Tuma, 2002). The study abroad program lasting a full academic year, once held up as the ideal, is becoming increasingly less common. In fact, only 7% of study abroad participants chose academic year-long programs in 2002/03, compared to 18% in 1985/86 (IIE). The statistics propagated by Dwyer and Peters are perhaps even more illustrative of this trend. In reporting on the results of the International Education of Students (IES) 50year Alumni Survey, the researchers found that among the individuals who had studied abroad during the 1950s and 1960s, 72% had studied abroad for a full year; in comparison, only 20% of the respondents had studied abroad for a full year during the 1990s.
As such, it is not surprising that the overwhelming majority of U.S. American students who studied abroad in 2002/03 (92%) were enrolled in programs that lasted for a semester or less (IIE, 2004). Results of the IES Alumni Survey revealed that the number of study abroad participants studying abroad for 10 weeks or less has increased threefold from the 1950s and 1960s to the 1990s (Dwyer & Peters, 2004). These statistics are buttressed by the analogous results of the Open Doors Report (IIE), which found that more than 50% of study abroad participants enrolled in summer, January term, or other programs that lasted eight weeks or less in 2002/03. It is held by many in the field of international education that the proliferation of short-term study abroad programs has permitted a greater number of students to participate in study abroad programs than would have otherwise been restricted from doing so, due to financial, familial or curricular impediments (IIE; Marklein, 2003; Rubin, 1995; Sowa, 2002; Spencer & Tuma, 2002).
Although the number of students who participate in study abroad continues to rise each year, the reality is that these students only account for a little more than 1% of the total college student population (IIE, 2004; Marklein, 2003). According to a report disseminated by NAFSA: Association of International Educators, institutions of higher education often unknowingly and unintentionally discourage students from studying abroad through such factors as faculty indifference, rigid curricula, and programs not conducive to the needs of nontraditional students (Marklein). The cost of international education, real or perceived, coupled with the temporary or permanent loss of a paying job, also acts as a significant factor dissuading students from studying abroad (Rubin, 1995; Sell, 1983). Many of the impediments to study abroad pertain to both long and short-term programs; however, many are more applicable to semester and year-long programs because of the fact that short-term programs have been designed with many of these acknowledged barriers in mind. For example, in Opening Doors: Alternative Pedagogies for Short-Term Programs Abroad, Hovde (2002b), pointed to anecdotal and quantitative evidence demonstrating that most U.S. college students are unwilling and unable to spend a semester or academic year abroad. He proceeded to delineate the many reasons that institutions would be disinclined from sending large numbers of students abroad, including budgetary constraints, empty residence halls, lower student-faculty ratios, and logistical complications. Furthermore, individual students may have their own academic, personal, social or cultural justifications for not wanting to study abroad (Tuma, 2002a).
Study Abroad Program Models Common definitions. The very reason that increasing numbers of students are able to choose to study abroad for varying amounts of time and from a plethora of destinations stems from the fact that there are currently numerous types of program models and program providers (IIE, 2004). Therefore, in light of the preceding historical and contemporary discussion of study abroad, it is important to review the common definitions of international education terms and to understand the diverse array of study abroad programs. At the most general level, international education may be defined as activities and programs that permit ideas and individuals to cross cultural and international borders (Arum & Van de Water, 1992; Harari, 1992). Study abroad is usually defined more narrowly within the U.S., to mean: “Any arrangement by which a student completes part of the college program studying in another country. Can [sic] be at a campus abroad or through a cooperative agreement with some other U.S. college or an institution of another country” (Florida Atlantic University, Common Data Set Definitions). Harari defines student exchange programs as “the international movement of students and scholars” (p. 69). Moreover, the term “study tour” is frequently used to describe study abroad programs that are short-term and which often occur during the summer break or winter-term (Hopkins, 1999). For the purposes of this research study, the terms “international education,” “education abroad” and “study abroad” will be used interchangeably. It is important to note, however, that this study is only concerned with U.S. American students leaving the United States for a period of time to study at an institution of higher education located in another country, and not with foreign students who are enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities.
Types of programs. Kraft, Ballantine, and Garvey (as cited in Sowa, 2002) classify study abroad programs into three categories: total immersion, protective studies and tour models. These categories highlight the extent to which study abroad participants’ experiences may qualitatively differ in relation to the type of program in which individuals are enrolled. Through total immersion models, students are able to truly experience the language and culture of a foreign country and culture by studying at a foreign university for a period of time that lasts between a semester and a year. In comparison, protective study abroad models function as study abroad programs where students interact with and are instructed by resident advisors and instructors from their home countries while abroad. Finally, the third type of program, the study tour, usually occurs over a period of time spanning from two to eight weeks, and is meant to provide students with an overview of the course topic and of the country (or countries, if more than one are visited during the study tour, which is often the case).