By Mandira Banerjee and Josephine Tolin
The university is third in the nation with 3,214 U.S. students in 139 countries earning credit in education-abroad programs in 2016-17—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.
“Education abroad provides students with opportunities to grow in many dimensions. Intercultural engagement is one, of course, and learning to work across and to value difference is vital in today’s world,” said James Holloway, U-M vice provost for global engagement and interdisciplinary academic affairs. “These experiences also help students develop other skills critical for success, such as creativity and self-agency.”
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, U-M had 5,290 students overseas in 2016-17—2,076 more students than in the Open Doors report.
“It’s very exciting that last year nearly 45 percent of our graduating seniors reported having an international experience,” Holloway said. “These experiences are critical learning opportunities that cannot be replaced by other engagements.”
The institution with the most students studying abroad was New York University, followed by Texas A&M University.
Safety is a key concern for all of U-M’s international travelers, and the university assesses security situations worldwide, advises students about risks before they depart, and stays 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 3.4 percent to 8,442 students in 2015-16, placing U-M 16th overall in the size of its international student population.
“Many offices and programs across all of our schools and colleges can help students find just the right opportunity for engagement 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.”
Valuable experiences from study abroad
Students celebrate International Education Week
Residential College student Griffin St. Onge was 19 when she boarded her first plane. A couple of months later, she was on her way to a six-week intensive French program in Grenoble, France.
“I’d been studying French culture long enough, but it was so different at the same time,” said St. Onge, an LSA senior from Clawson, Mich. “I lived with a host family and took classes at an institute for foreign learners of French language and literature. Everything felt so new.”
Since then, this political science/French double major has continued to seek global learning opportunities. The French language skills she fostered in Grenoble helped her earn an internship in the Canadian Parliament this past summer.
“The French-Canadian dialect is much different from the dialect in Grenoble,” St. Onge said. “The internship in Canada was a special challenge because I was a native English speaker in a predominantly French-speaking workplace.”
St. Onge plans to pursue a career in immigration law. She volunteers at Freedom House in Detroit, where she works with French-speaking asylum seekers.
“It’s been amazing to have the opportunities to build my language skills during my time at U-M,” she said.
For Stamps junior Joseph Mandel, study abroad was also an important stepping stone in his academic and professional path. In Florence, Italy, this sculptor learned about Renaissance art and connected with his Italian roots.
“Florence is the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance,” said Mandel, whose grandparents emigrated from Italy. “It is special to be here to study renaissance art.”
Inspired by the region’s art, Mandel decided to carve the Old Testament’s giant, Goliath, in marble found exclusively in Carrara, Italy.
“The David statue is so famous, but there’s never been a statue of Goliath, per se. So I decided to carve Goliath’s head, as if he’d been struck by a stone,” Mandel said.
Working in an unfamiliar place meant that Mandel had to rely on his instincts, which reflected in his work as well.
“I find that it makes my decision-making as an artist stronger and my work is stronger as a result,” he said.
Mandel’s creativity paid off. He received the David Davidson Award by the Stamps School of Art and Design for his work. It is the highest award given by the school to recognize the work of a student.
“It was the first time I have been recognized individually for my art,” Mandel said. “It made me proud of my work and my experience.”