Austin College #1 in Study Abroad

Austin College again ranks #1 in the nation for study abroad based upon percentage of participation among baccalaureate institutions in the Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange (IEE) released today. Kicking off International Education Week, the report indicates an increase in U.S. students studying abroad, with nearly 10,000 more students studying abroad for credit in academic year 2009-2010 than the previous year.

Austin College has had four #1 rankings in this category in the past six years and has developed a reputation for all things global. At least 70 percent of Austin College graduates of the past decade have had one or more study abroad experiences as an undergraduate. (IEE reports 14 percent of all undergraduate students study abroad.) The Austin College numbers are quite intentional; Austin College faculty and administrators are committed to encouraging a high level of international study among the student body, with a goal for the future of 100 percent of students having an international study experience.

“We are so aware of how important it is that today’s college students—our next generation of leaders—have global understanding and true awareness of the world around them,” said Austin College President Marjorie Hass. “The earth is a small boat and we rise and fall together on it. In coming years our world will need to deal with environmental, economic, and societal issues that will require the broadened perspective of experience in other cultures. A new level of sophistication and experience will be required from the leaders upon whom we will depend to create success in our businesses and communities. That is why the international focus of Austin College students is so crucial.”

International travel also provides connections between coursework and real-world situations. “It’s important to find ways to connect theory and practice,” Dr. Hass said. “That is, our students are not just evaluating theories about global development; they travel and see a developing country with their own eyes. They not only see it, but they learn what it looks like from other cultures’ perspectives. With that experience, they really can interpret and evaluate how to address world issues.”

Study abroad at Austin College comes in many forms, from January Term courses to traditional semester- or year-abroad programs to internships and service work. Every year, some 300 students take one-month January Term courses that involve a travel component, providing those connections beyond the textbook. For example, the history of World War II becomes much more real as students crouch in bunkers or explore battle sites; science students’ understanding of environmental issues becomes much broader while hiking through the rain forests of South America; any study of culture or language can be enhanced by being a part of the culture and immersing in language.

Approximately Austin College 50 students each semester take part in traditional, full-semester study abroad programs. Service opportunities, like the Austin College Global Outreach summer program that has sent students on self-designed service projects, have involved students volunteering in Cambodia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Moldova, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, The Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam, among other nations.

During the 2009-2010 academic year, which the current IEE data represents, Austin College January Term and traditional study abroad programs sent students to Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Mexico, New Zealand, Oman, South Africa, Scotland, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tanzania, and Uruguay.

The Open Doors report is published annually by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The data in Open Doors 2011 reflect study abroad conducted for credit in academic year 2009-2010 (including summer 2010). Campus administrators respond to Open Doors  survey on the number of students awarded credit after completion of study abroad, so the data provided during the 2010-2011 year was for study abroad in 2009-2010 and is the most recent available.

Allan E. Goodman, president and CEO of the Institute of International Education, said “Studying abroad enables American students to obtain first-hand experience in other countries and cultures, to prepare them as 21st century professionals and leaders in all fields. The international skills they gain are crucial to their ability to succeed in global careers and work together across borders to address important world issues. It is important that we as educators work to try to ensure that all students have the opportunity to study abroad.”

Austin College is a leading national independent liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas. Founded in 1849, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original charter and name, the college is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recognized nationally for academic excellence in the areas of international education, pre-professional training, and leadership studies, Austin College is one of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives.