The of on-campus recruiting for summer internships from the spring to the fall semester has caused significant changes in which students participate in the study abroad program and when they choose to do so.
While the overall number of students deciding to go abroad hasn’t changed dramatically, many more students are opting to go in the spring.
During the 2015-2016 academic year, 553 total students studied abroad for a semester, 448 students in the fall and 105 students in the spring. This 2016-2017 academic year, 482 total students are studying abroad, 240 students in the fall and 242 students in the spring, according to Director of Penn Abroad Nigel Cossar.
Cossar said there is also a trend among sophomores who have started to go abroad during their spring semester, in anticipation of fall OCR. In the spring of 2016, 22 sophomores studied abroad for the semester, and in the spring of 2017, 49 sophomores studied abroad.
“Fall numbers have certainly declined in the past year, very much as a direct result of the changes of OCR,” Cossar said. “We talk to students about this as part of their advising program, and many have cited OCR as a major reason for them choosing spring now.”
Career Services officially moved OCR to the fall once it became clear that the majority of outside employers preferred fall recruitment and would not continue to comply with Penn’s OCR schedule otherwise.
“Within the last few years it really got to a point where we were beginning to feel that our students were missing out,” Senior Associate Director of Career Services Barbara Hewitt said. “A lot of employers were just doing it off campus because we didn’t allow it on campus. Whether we wanted to move it or not, employers were going to be doing it in the fall anyway, so it really didn’t make sense to be working against them.”
Hewitt added that she and administrators in the undergraduate schools were hesitant to move OCR to the fall for several years. She feels it causes more stress for students who may not be prepared to apply for or choose internships.
Career Services and Penn Abroad are both working to ensure students have the opportunity to study abroad as well as participate in OCR. During this past semester, Career Services worked to facilitate interviews through video conferences between employers on campus and Penn students abroad. Forty students participated in more than 100 interviews while they were abroad.
Still, many who wish to participate in OCR anticipate that it will be too difficult to do so abroad and often choose to forgo studying abroad in order to focus on OCR.
“When OCR moved to the fall, I got nervous because I used a lot of resources at Penn, like I went to Career Services pretty often to do resume and cover letter reviews, and that’s something that’s a lot easier to do in person than virtually or through an email,” Engineering junior Sabrina Aberman said. A few weeks after Aberman was accepted into her study abroad program in Australia, she decided to decline.
Penn Abroad is launching a new initiative that focuses more on why students want to go abroad instead of simply asking where. In doing so, Cossar hopes to make the prospect of studying abroad more tangible for those who feel they cannot spend an entire semester abroad. Already, Cossar said there has been an increase in applications for the International Internship Program, which runs over the summer, and for the new Penn Global Seminars courses.
“We’re really trying to broaden our reach and our scope to ensure that any Penn undergraduate student can have an international experience, on campus or abroad, as part of their degree,” Cossar said. “And that’s what our ultimate aim is.”
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.