University of Wisconsin students are studying abroad in record numbers, an increase that ranks the university 10th among U.S. research universities, according to a report released Monday.
The Open Doors Report, which based its findings on data from the 2006-07 academic year, shows the number of UW students earning some of their academic credit abroad increased by 14 percent from the previous year.
Europe hosted the largest share of U.S. students at 57 percent, Asia hosted 10 percent and Africa hosted the lowest amount at 4 percent.
“We’re seeing great success in study abroad participation — in the social sciences, the humanities and arts, but also more broadly in professional schools, like business and engineering, that are setting ambitious goals,” said Dean of the Division of International Studies Gilles Bousquet in a statement.
The trend at UW is concurrent with study abroad trends nationwide, as the report found the number of Americans studying abroad increased by 8 percent.
According to Masarah Van Eyck, director of communications for the Division of International Studies, UW has made a “concerted and successful effort” to increase international awareness through curriculum, producing a broad spectrum of opportunities abroad for students.
In an e-mail to The Badger Herald, Van Eyck said former Chancellor David Ward charged the Division of International Studies with “internationalizing” the campus during his term, which has pushed all schools and colleges to increase their international content.
“This has resulted in a lot of interdisciplinary projects and centers, like the Center for Global Health, that has helped students and researchers gain access to more global scholarship, training and opportunities,” Van Eyck added.
More than 20,000 UW students have studied abroad since the university’s study abroad program launched in 1959. Last year, 17 percent of UW undergraduates studied abroad.
In 2007-08, UW provided more than $500,000 in study abroad scholarships to more than 300 students, Van Eyck said.
Robert Howell, German professor and director of International Academic Programs, said student demand for opportunities abroad is high and participation in study abroad will continue to grow.
“Study abroad is an immensely satisfying experience,” Howell said in an e-mail. “Students return with stories of exciting adventures, undreamed-of personal growth, and with a greater understanding and appreciation for people whose world view is different from their own.”
Van Eyck said students are recognizing that experience abroad is integral to their education and their futures. She added UW graduates, regardless of major, need the global skills, attitudes and knowledge from study abroad programs to succeed in an increasingly globalized world.
Howell said potential employers often tell the university they need “globally competent candidates,” and that is what his department aims to do.
“I think that students and faculty recognize that every serious challenge we face is global in scope and that we need to train our students for a global economy,” Howell said.
Van Eyck added studying abroad is essential to producing competent and skilled workers after graduating college.