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Study abroad rate ranks seventh nationally

Sarah Mervosh | Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sophomore Erin Wurst said her study abroad application is weighing on her mind more and more, not just because of the approaching deadline, but because everyone is talking about it.

“All of my friends are applying,” she said. “Everyone is kind of talking about where are you in your applications and what’s your essay about because you have to stand out to everyone else who’s applying.”

Wurst, who is applying to study in Toledo, Spain, for a year, said study abroad has become a favored topic of conversation because she knows so many students who are applying.
“I feel like it’s just kind of something that everyone does. It’s not really an issue of it you are going abroad, it’s like where you are going abroad,” she said.

With 59.5 percent of Notre Dame students earning credit abroad, Notre Dame has the seventh-highest study abroad rate in the country, the 2008 Open Doors report said.
“Our percentage is very high,” Director of International Studies Kathleen Opel said. “I would say higher than Ivy Leagues.”

Opel said Notre Dame has had a long-term commitment to international education since the 1960s and continuously works to improve the program by reviewing each location and adding programs to fill needs of departments.

“We’ve increased our number of programs and the kinds of opportunities people have,” Opel said.

The University has 32 semester and year-long study abroad locations in 29 different countries, the Office of International Studies Web site said.

“We have a variety of programs that fit different students’ needs, but we don’t have so many that we don’t have a good knowledge of every program,” she said.

Though Opel said about 948 students study abroad during each academic year, the Office of International Studies does little recruiting.

The office announces information sessions for each abroad location and has one general information session during freshmen orientation, Opel said.   

“The students who come back from study abroad are really our best recruiters because they tell everyone in the dorm about their experiences,” she said.

Junior Gabriela Moriel, who is currently studying in Puebla, Mexico, said the ringing endorsement of studying abroad by returning students was a factor in her decision to go abroad.

“I did not hear from a single person who did not absolutely love their study abroad experience,” she said. “And I think that is a remarkable thing to say, especially when we already go to the best university in the country.”

Moriel said her abroad experience has been just as positive as she had expected.
“My experiences in Mexico have completely surpassed my expectations in every way possible. As we approach November, I’m already starting to get sad because I am not ready for this experience to end,” she said.

Wurst said the accessibility of the study abroad programs make it easy for students to apply, and is probably a contributing factor to the high rate of international study at Notre Dame.

“They encourage you to go, and they are really organized and they make you feel safe about going abroad and comfortable,” Wurst said. “They make it really appealing.”

“I feel like at other schools, especially at big universities, it’s like well you can study abroad if you want, here’s how you apply. And you are kind of on your own from there,” she said. “They don’t have as much direction as we do here at Notre Dame.”

Junior Elizabeth Benson, who is studying abroad in London, agreed.

“Notre Dame has lots of study abroad students because it’s so easy to do. Being abroad is so much fun and everything I’m doing counts for college requirements and for my major,” Benson said.

Junior Emma Nalezny, who is also studying abroad in London, attributed Notre Dame’s large study abroad percentage to the type of students who attend Notre Dame.

“I think Notre Dame’s study abroad rate is so high because the students are willing to take on an adventure and discover new things,” Nalezny said.

Senior Alex Riordan, who studied abroad in Toledo, Spain, agreed.

“Notre Dame students tend to value cultural awareness while they also desire the excitement that comes with being surrounded by completely new people, places, and things,” she said.

Wurst said the number of students who go abroad at Notre Dame made her feel comfortable enough to apply.

“I know that I’ll be surrounded by other Notre Dame students and I’ll be in an environment where I’ll feel comfortable,” she said. “I really don’t think I’d go for a year if I was on my own.”

Opel encouraged anyone who is interested to apply for a study abroad program.

“When you come back and have on your resume that you’ve done a study abroad, not just for the sake of study abroad, that you really learned something, I think that’s what makes it a really marketable experience,” she said.

“We want to put you abroad, so help us do that for you by giving us a good application,” Opel said.

The application deadline is Nov. 15, according to the Office of International Studies Web site.