By Mandira Banerjee and Fernanda Pires
ANN ARBOR—University of Michigan has the most students studying abroad among the Big Ten universities and is fifth in the nation among higher education institutions, according to a new report.
The university had 2,714 U.S. students in 144 countries earning credit in education-abroad programs in 2014-15, according to the annual Open Doors report by the Institute of International Education, a New York-based nonprofit.
“We are thrilled to once again see our students so engaged with the world. Their work spans the globe from Finland to Ethiopia, from Ghana to Korea, from Canada to Chile,” said James Holloway, vice provost for global engagement and interdisciplinary academic affairs.
“The students learn and grow intellectually, professionally and personally from these encounters with difference, and they bring the Michigan ethos of humility, collaboration and service wherever they go.”
Although the highly regarded 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 4,377 students overseas in 2014-15—almost double the number in the Open Doors report.
The institution with the most students studying abroad was New York University, followed by Texas A&M University, the University of Texas and the University of Southern California.
Safety is always a key concern for all of U-M’s international travelers, and U-M 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 2.8 percent to 7,630 in 2014-15, placing U-M 14th overall in the size of its international student population. Of these, 56 percent were graduate students, 24 percent were undergraduates, and 16 percent were engaged in post-degree practical training.
“Our faculty and staff deserve lots of credit for all the work they do to get our students abroad,” Holloway said. “Not only do they do this work for our students, but many are also involved in national and international organizations that help students across the U.S. engage internationally.”
Students up close: Valuable lessons from afar
Students celebrate International Education Week
Double majoring in international and Latin American and Caribbean studies, Ozema Braddock has a lot to celebrate during International Education Week 2016.
A first-generation college student from a single parent home, she took three courses abroad and has been to Argentina, Brazil and Chile—one trip per school year.
“I say to everyone I meet that if there is one ‘that thing’ university students should do before they graduate, it is study abroad,” she said. “The time that I have spent abroad has shaped me as an individual and allowed me to see the world in a completely different manner.
“I feel that we, as Americans, tend to cut ourselves off from the rest of the world, living in a sort of bubble that does not allow us to see and appreciate the beauty of other cultures and learn from people with completely different backgrounds and experiences.”
Zoe Gerstle, a junior in the Residential College, agreed that her experience abroad opened her eyes. She took a theater and incarceration class from the Prison Creative Arts Project and co-facilitated theater workshops at the Washtenaw Youth Detention Center by playing, talking and laughing with a group of teenaged girls every week during that semester.
Aiming to have a better understanding of the social theater work and an international point of view, Gerstle decided to go to Brazil in a study abroad class to be a participant observer in theater work in prisons, underprivileged neighborhoods and hospitals.
“The class I took at U-M set up a wonderful base of knowledge to start off with, but the study abroad enriched that experience in so many ways,” she said. “One of the most special experiences for me was getting to know the Brazilian students, and realizing how similar they were to our group, especially when we talked about why we do the work we do in prisons and what it means to us.”
Gerstle said that while in Brazil she was reminded that one of the most powerful aspects of travel is to prove the commonness of the human experience.
“That despite traveling thousands of miles to see exotic landscapes and differing cultures, when human connections are made, it is the similarities and unity that shine through,” she said.