By Mandira Banerjee and Fernanda Pires
ANN ARBOR—For the fifth consecutive year, the University of Michigan ranks in the top 10 among higher education institutions with the most students studying abroad, according to a new report.
The university is sixth in the nation with 2,801 U.S. students in 127 countries earning credit in education-abroad programs in 2015-16—the most recent academic year with complete data—according to the annual Open Doors report by the Institute of International Education, a New York-based nonprofit.
“Through international engagement, our students develop a number of abilities that are critical for their development as future citizens and contributors to society,” said James Holloway, U-M vice provost for global engagement and interdisciplinary academic affairs. “They learn to be more creative, flexible and responsible actors in the world.”
Although the Open Doors report is the most complete census of education abroad in the U.S., the study does not provide a total count of U-M students who have gone overseas.
Not included in the report—commissioned by the U.S. State Department—are students who are not U.S. citizens. Also excluded are those who go abroad for noncredit co-curricular activities, such as internships, volunteer projects, research and performances.
Including these students in the total education-abroad tally, the university had 4,697 students overseas in 2015-16—almost double the number in the Open Doors report.
“We are excited that so many of our Michigan students are able to have an international experience,” Holloway said. “These experiences are critical learning opportunities that cannot be replaced by on-campus or digital engagements, experiences that help them learn to connect with others who are very different from themselves, and help them discover how cultural values enter into the decisions we all make as human beings.”
The institution with the most students studying abroad was New York University, followed by Texas A&M University, University of Southern California, University of Texas and Ohio State University.
Safety is always a key concern for all of U-M’s international travelers, and the university has a professional staff who assess security situations worldwide, advise students about risks before they depart and stay in close touch with them at their international sites.
U-M travelers are required to register their plans via an online system that supports emergency response abroad.
The report also looks at the size of the international student body at U.S. schools. The number of international students at U-M grew by 6 percent to 8,163 in 2015-16, placing U-M 14th overall in the size of its international student population. Of these, 61 percent were graduate students, 25 percent were undergraduates, and 14 percent were engaged in post-degree practical training.
“We are proud of the work of our faculty and staff who support our students’ experiences abroad,” Holloway said. “They support courses, fieldwork, internships and projects all over the globe, and help ensure that these experiences are both safe and educational.”
Students share stories from study abroad
Celebrating International Education Week
ANN ARBOR—Two clowns, named Aurélia and Wonderful, in full costume and makeup, walked the halls of the hospital, in Rio de Janeiro with Julia Timko, a recent graduate from the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
They were there to engage with health care professionals and patients, mostly sick children, and help them to emotionally relate to one another better. For three hours, during a sunny morning this summer, Timko followed the clowns, who were from Enfermaria do Riso, which literally means “Nursing of the Smiles.”
It’s the country’s first program to train theater students in clown language for the hospital environment, under the belief that “laughter is the best medicine.” Clowning is considered a difficult and high-level acting skill, and doing it in a sensitive space like a hospital can be even more complex.
“They entertained patients in waiting rooms, played pranks on the nurses and doctors who loved to play along,” Timko said. “When we went into the room for the children who were very sick, I blew bubbles and was invited to sing some lullabies. I will never forget that day.”
Timko said those were the most precious memories from her study abroad program in Brazil with the Prison Creative Arts Project. The program takes U-M students to Rio de Janeiro and Florianópolis to be participant observers in the theater work they do in prisons, underprivileged neighborhoods and hospitals.
For Timko, going to Brazil was uplifting. She said seeing how many people were actively working to improve society through the arts made her feel as though problems aren’t as insurmountable as they seem.
“After coming back, I am trying to be more aware of social justice issues on a global scale and the ways that we might learn from the practices of different cultures,” she said.
Now, she is working in an elementary school in suburban Detroit with autistic kids.
“This experience really reinforced my belief that I want to spend my life helping people and bringing love and care to places that are frequently neglected,” Timko said.
During this year’s International Education Week, the event that commemorates international education and exchange worldwide across the United States and around the globe, marks its 18th anniversary. In a continuous effort to foster intellectual curiosity and intercultural understanding, U-M students traveled to many different countries and have many reasons to celebrate.
“By engaging in unfamiliar experiences we gain insight into ourselves and our society,” said Michael Jordan, director of the Center for Global and Intercultural Study. “We learn to view life differently and to ask new questions, we develop empathy and patience, we become more flexible. Studying abroad is an opportunity to become a better informed, more mature and more understanding human being.”
Alyssa Fabrizio, a junior from Redford, Mich., went to Italy to study history in places like Rome, Sicily and Ravenna. Taking field trips twice a week, she had the opportunity to see elements of classical studies on site.
“We talked about the Imperial Fora then got to walk through them simultaneously as modern day historians and ancient Romans,” she said. “We got to experience the history, in a sense.”
Fabrizio said the trip was a unique experience. She met people she would not have ever crossed paths with without the program and because she had the opportunity to get to know Rome, especially, in a particular way that is difficult to see in a shorter visit.
“And it was academically challenging. I have never had such a rigorous, hands-on school experience before,” she said. “The entire city and beyond was our classroom. Not only was I able to be in my favorite city in the world, I was also able to further my education.”