"Why did you not study abroad?" This is a question that is being asked by many members of administration of the students who have not done either a winter term or semester abroad during their four years at Elon University.
The first point of the Elon Commitment is "an unprecedented university commitment to diversity and global engagement." The administration is aiming for 100 percent of students to have the opportunity to travel abroad during their studies and experience life immersed in a new culture.
"We all believe study abroad is very valuable," said Woody Pelton, dean of international programs and director of the Isabella Cannon International Centre. "Students who go abroad come back as changed for the better. It's important to gain that experience."
Seventy-eight and one half percent of the Class of 2011 studied abroad and this is typical of other recent classes, as well.
One of the hurdles that exists for the remaining 28.5 percent of students is money. The International Centre is trying to reduce the cost of study abroad, but there are limits because of the cost of quality academics, housing and transportation.
"We are looking to create more scholarships, but we're not the only group on campus trying to raise funds,"Pelton said. "We are trying to collaborate with the advancement office to find additional support."
The current scholarships are enough to help someone if they have almost enough funds, but not students who do not have any money for study abroad, Pelton said. The International Centre sometimes encourages studying abroad for a semester because it is less expensive than Winter Term programs.
The students who are less likely to study abroad are males, athletes, residents of North Carolina, participants in Greek Life, minorities and students from certain disciplines, like performing arts, according to Connie Book, associate provost for Academic Affairs. The International Centre is working with these academic departments, athletics, the office of Greek Life and the Multicultural Center to find out when the best time is for these students to study abroad and what obstacles they may have that would impede the feasibility of going abroad.
"Students who are in the musical theatre program are more likely to not study abroad," Pelton said. "They are always auditioning for or performing in a production during the semester."
There are also opportunities to study abroad in the summer and during Winter Term. But musical theatre students tend to try and get professional experience during those times, Book said. The administration is still trying to figure out why males do not study abroad as much.
"In focus groups, males have commented that they wanted it to count toward their professional experience," Book said. "If they just think about it as enrichment in culture, then they won't be as engaged."
The trends that have been found for not studying abroad during these focus groups reflect national trends, Pelton said, including that student athletes do not have time to study abroad in their schedules.
"With student athletes it is a challenge and we are sympathetic," Pelton said. "What we're trying to do is work with the Athletic Department to try and determine what time of year is best. Maybe we will create a program for, say, baseball. Since athletes tend to be committed for most of the year, they might need their own program."
The International Centre is also following the new general studies program closely because the study abroad courses might meet those requirements, Pelton said.
A survey will be sent out in the next few weeks for students in the Class of 2012 who have never studied abroad, to find out their reasons for not studying abroad.
"We want to identify all of these different reasons, so then we can try and help as many students study abroad as possible," Pelton said. "It makes for a stronger student body and a more global community"