Student interest in global opportunities is on the rise

UM alumna Jessica Bekoff stands in front of the Colosseum during her semester in Rome, Italy on Study Abroad’s URome program.

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen

UM alumna Jessica Bekoff stands in front of the Colosseum during her semester in Rome, Italy on Study Abroad’s URome program.

Student interest in global opportunities is on the rise

By Janette Neuwahl Tannen
The number of students applying for Study Abroad has increased dramatically, with Europe being the most popular destination.

A record number of students are interested in participating in the University of Miami’s study abroad programs this spring, especially those offered in Europe.

In the past, typically about 175 UM students would study abroad during the spring semester, yet this year, Director of Study Abroad Devika Milner said the office is expecting about 260 undergraduate students will spend their spring semester outside of the United States. This represents a 49 percent increase in applications over last spring. 

“We have definitely seen a significant increase in interest since last year,” Milner said. “For example, we are expecting to send 36 students to Rome, and last year we sent about 23 students in the spring.”

In particular, the URome, UPrague and UParis programs are all experiencing the most interest — to the point where the Study Abroad office has actually had to turn some students away, which is rare, Milner said. Student applications for programs in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland have doubled since last year, and a program in Mannheim, Germany, is garnering more student applications than ever before.  In addition, Study Abroad’s Amsterdam program has five students planning to attend three different universities in spring, whereas last year there was one student in that city.

To help as many ’Canes be able to study abroad as possible, the office has given priority to upperclassmen or other students who cannot study abroad in the future, Milner said. The office is also giving precedence to students who applied, but did not get placed in their first choice program. Milner suggested that students who did not get into their ideal program could apply for a different program, or plan to study abroad the following semester.

“Our goal is not to turn students away if they are qualified, so while students may not get their first choice [for spring], we’ll work with them to get them into a program they want that also has what they need academically,” said Jessica Driemeier, assistant director of Study Abroad.

Although some deadlines to apply have passed, the office still has several programs with applications due October 1, such as its Australia programs in Perth, Sydney and Wollongong; a program in Vienna, Austria; one in Chile; UShanghai in China; as well as three programs in Germany, one in Switzerland and another in Brighton, England.

Coordinators for the Europe programs say they are unsure what prompted the swell in interest. Milner thinks that perhaps the fact that the Study Abroad office moved about two years ago to the center of Dooly Memorial, a massive classroom building near central campus, has helped to lure students. But she also thinks that UM professors’ enthusiasm for study abroad, as well as the support of academic advisors, has helped capture students’ attention.

Meanwhile, students are not surprised by the increase in applicants. Emma Finn, a junior majoring in Creative Advertising and Psychology, said she thinks that word of mouth around campus has prompted more students to want to study abroad. Finn spent last spring on the URome trip and was enticed by the warm, welcoming nature of Italian culture, along with its reputation for great food.

“People who went on my program spoke very highly of it and we talked to our friends and sorority members about it,” she said. “I know people studying in Rome currently and many of them said seeing my experience on Instagram and Facebook helped them confirm that they wanted to go to Rome.”

Rachel Camilleri, a sophomore studying public health, said she was not heartbroken when she did not get into her top choice program of UPrague because she is going to Rome instead.

“Rome has so much history and is so different than what you have here in the U.S.,” she said.

Another student going to Rome this spring, sophomore economics major Mark LaRocca, was drawn to Italy because he has family in Sicily and wants to improve his language skills.

“I want to go there to immerse myself in my own culture, improve my Italian and I want to study art history,” LaRocca said.

Edgardo Gonzalez Chacon, a senior majoring in motion pictures, spent last fall on the UPrague program and said he too is not stunned the program is experiencing a strong following. Gonzalez Chacon, who is also a photographer, said he was initially drawn to the city because of its architectural beauty, but later learned about Prague’s other assets.

“It’s centrally located and you can travel easily to other countries,” Gonzalez Chacon said. “Also, Prague is cheaper to live in [than other European cities]…plus it has one of the best public transportation systems in the world.”

Associate Professor Logan Connors, who runs UM’s newest study abroad program, UParis, thinks the strong numbers for his program reflect the fact that UM students crave a new experience.

“Miami is a new city that changes quickly, and Paris is the opposite—it’s a city with storied traditions and monuments that have existed for over 1,000 years” said Connors, who is also director of undergraduate studies in French. “That difference is indicative of the fact that our students are willing to take chances.”

Visit UM Study Abroad for more information on programs and applications.