Studying abroad grows, but for shorter terms

Semester stays give way to trips lasting a few weeks


The number of American students weaving study-abroad sojourns into their college curriculums is continuing to grow, but for many students it now means trips to China or Cuba or Kenya with a professor for a few weeks during vacation - for credit.

Interest in programs of less than a semester has been growing since the mid-1980s, and such programs now account for nearly 77,000 students, almost half of all students studying abroad, according to new figures released by the Institute of International Education.

That is a jump of 463 percent since 1985. In the same period, the number of students spending at least a semester or a quarter abroad grew by 167 percent, to more than 82,000.

The new figures are for the 2001-2002 school year, when the number of students studying abroad rose 4 percent from the year before, to a record 160,920.

An institute survey recently found that study-abroad programs overall had continued to grow. Half of the 235 respondents said they had more participants now than a year ago; 18 percent said they were at the same level; and less than a third reported a decline.

The increase in short programs - typically during the summer or January - reflects a growing belief that students should learn more about the world beyond the United States. But it also reflects a recognition by many colleges that some students will not go abroad unless the experiences come in smaller packages.

College officials say that some students cannot take a semester away from their course work, particularly in science and engineering. Other students face financial problems. Still others do not want to walk away from family, friends or commitments like sports.

"They just like the whole campus experience, and are reluctant to leave," said June Schlueter, provost at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., who has taught a course on London theater, an intensive three-week session in January, about 15 times over 20 years.

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