The number of American students studying abroad has increased over the last year, according to the annual Open Doors report released Tuesday by the Institute of International Education.
Boston University study abroad programs have also shown consistent growth, wrote David Lamitie, BU Study Abroad’s associate director for program development and external programs, in an email. Increased interest is likely because of new programs and opportunities, such as study abroad options for students in STEM fields, education and business.
“Working with our colleagues in the schools and colleges – we continue to develop programs in an effort to provide more opportunity for our students and opportunities that enhance and enrich their programs of study,” Lamitie wrote.
More than one quarter of students who studied abroad last year were students studying in STEM fields, according to the report, making up the largest group of students by field.
Women have tended to study abroad more often than men in the past decade, according to the report. In recent years, the gap has only widened, and women accounted for more than two-thirds of students who studied abroad in the 2016-2017 academic year.
Both female and in a STEM field, Daryn Stevens, a senior in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, falls into two of the largest demographic groups who studied abroad last year. Stevens spent last semester abroad in Sydney, Australia, where she took classes and interned in health and human resources, she said.
“I wanted to study abroad because I knew, especially going into the health field, I would never have the opportunity to travel for that amount of time in my life again,” Stevens said. “It was an opportunity that seemed impossible to pass up.”
Shorter program options and more students in general could also be a cause of growth in BU’s study abroad program, Lamitie wrote.
BU’s primary focus is on study abroad programs that take place for eight or more weeks over the course of a semester or during the summer, Lamitie wrote. BU ranks fourth among doctorate-granting research universities for number of students on mid-length study abroad programs, he wrote, a number that has remained consistent for 10 to 15 years.
Whereas BU focuses on mid-length study abroad programs, the Open Doors report shows that more students are studying abroad through programs shorter in length. More than a third of students studying abroad in the 2016-2017 academic year did so over the summer, and of these, 35.6 percent participated in programs shorter than eight weeks.
As far as recognizing the trends presented by Open Doors, Lamitie wrote that he does not think BU needs to change its program based on the report. The study abroad program at BU will adapt based on the numbers it is producing instead, he wrote, as the college monitors its own trends in enrollments by school, college and degree program.
The most popular study abroad program at BU is London, England, said Ilse Damkoehler, a program manager for BU Study Abroad. The most popular country for study abroad programs overall is the United Kingdom, according to the Open Doors report.
Damkoehler said she recognizes trends in the programs with which she works. The most popular program of the countries she oversees for this, she said, is the Geneva, Switzerland, internship program, which allows about 40 students per semester and usually fills to capacity.
“I think there is a large desire for students to intern abroad,” she said. “Especially for international relations and public health, Geneva is a really popular destination for that because of the nature of the city and the international organizations that are there.”
Anastasia Eremina, a College of Communication freshman from Russia studied at an American high school in Switzerland before coming to BU. Her reasons for wanting to go abroad changed over the course of time, she wrote in an email.
“Firstly, [I] just wanted to study abroad due to the lack of opportunities in my country,” Eremina wrote, “but then it turned more into wanting to experience other cultures and learn and practice different languages.”
Temera Budhoo, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, has studied abroad a total of three times during her years at BU: to London, Madrid, Spain and Auckland, New Zealand. She said she feels the Study Abroad program offers students the opportunity to immerse themselves in a different setting and allow them to better understand it.
“It is just such a different experience from travelling, when you travel somewhere you just see what the tourists would normally see,” Budhoo said. “But when you go and live there for a couple of months, or at least past a month, the whole experience is very different — you see how the people that live there are and you experience the culture.”