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Students apply to go abroad

Alicia Conley | Monday, September 26, 2005

Though the application deadlines for foreign studies programs don’t start until Nov. 15, many students, especially sophomores, have already begun thinking about their plans for next year. And at Notre Dame, a university with one of the largest percentages in the U.S. of undergraduates studying abroad, interested students have company – and competition.

“Around 50 percent of Notre Dame students go abroad somehow,” whether through his office or through another organization such as the Center for Social Concerns, said Thomas Bogenschild, the director of the International Study Programs.

The office reviews more than 1,400 applications each year, which requires a large time commitment both on the part of the students and office of the International Study Programs.

Most Notre Dame students apply to study abroad junior year. However, some students participating in year-long programs such as Angers, France and Innsbruck, Germany go their sophomore years.

Interested students first choose where they want to study, then fill out an application online which is just “two clicks” off the main University Web site, Bogenschild said.

Abroad programs are looking for students not only with a strong GPA, Bogenschild said, but also the ability to express their interest in studying abroad in a short essay.

“The statement of objectives is very important,” and should not be taken lightly, Bogenschild said.

Applicants must also obtain a letter of recommendation from their rector if they reside on campus.

With more than 30 programs to choose from, settling on a destination can be difficult. However, the programs in English-speaking countries are always the most popular and are “more competitive in the sense that there are more students applying,” Bogenschild said.

The London program receives the most applications followed by Dublin, Australia, Rome and Toledo, Bogenschild said.

Students in select courses of studies, such as science majors, have more limited options on where they can study abroad due to the course offerings in those locations.

Emily Meyer, a sophomore environmental studies major, said it takes “a lot of course schedule manipulation” to ensure she can fulfill her science requirements and spend a semester abroad. In London, a city she would like to study in, there is often only one science course, physics, open for science majors. As a result, Meyer has now set her sights on either Perth or Dublin.

Meyer said she finds the application process stressful, but nowhere near so much as applying to college while in high school.

Rachel Murphy, a sophomore who is also a science major, expressed similar opinions about the difficulty level of applying to study abroad.

Abroad applications are “not as stressful,” said Murphy, who is applying for the Australia and Dublin programs.

Reading through all of the applications received is time consuming, and final decisions are not made until first semester grades are filed. This means that students who apply in November don’t find out if they are accepted until sometime in February.

Seniors also sometimes participate in study abroad, though much less frequently than juniors, Bogenschild said. He said that while it is “OK with [his office]” to let seniors go abroad, they are reluctant to miss either football season or graduation.

Language and GPA requirements for programs differ greatly. Locations in English-speaking countries don’t have any language requirements, as well as programs in Greece and Egypt, while studying in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil requires “intermediate to high proficiency.” Sometimes programs in the same country have different policies on proficiency.

Opportunities to study abroad continually change, Bogenschild said. For example, this is the first year that the program in Uganda will really be emphasized as an option for students. For the past several years there have been students participating in it, but the opportunity had never before been highly publicized.

Another program that students sometimes over look is Washington, D.C., Bogenschild said. While technically not “studying abroad” while in Washington, students are able to get valuable experience doing internships and experiencing life in the nation’s capital. The process of applying is the same as for any other program, except that choosing an internship is also necessary.

“There is a list of internships that students have done before, but we encourage students to look around and develop new ones,” Bogenschild said.