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Photo: Camille Rapay , Julia Schorr, Lucien Wang

As Penn students on campus prepare for another windy fall in Philadelphia, 241 of their peers will be packing their bags for a semester abroad across 25 different countries.

This number is a 45.1 percent decrease from the 439 students who studied abroad for their fall semester two years ago. And the reason behind this decrease is simple: In the past two years, on-campus recruiting has been conducted in the fall instead of the spring. 

For the first time in 2016, OCR was held in the fall. Director of Penn Abroad Nigel Cossar said numbers already indicate that this change is closely correlated to the decrease in the number of students studying abroad in the fall and a sharp spike in the number of students studying abroad in the spring. 

Before the OCR shift, roughly 85 percent of all the students going abroad for the year would do so in the fall, Cossar said. Last year, 236 students studied abroad for a semester in the fall and 241 in the spring, which means only 49 percent of students going abroad went in the fall. These figures are likely to replicate themselves this year, Cossar said. 

“We expected it in the longer term," he added, "but we didn’t expect it in just one year after the OCR change.”

The increase of students studying abroad in the spring has affected where students are choosing to study as well. 

Cossar noted that many popular destinations, such as various universities in London, have spring semesters that last till the end of June, which may cause scheduling conflicts with summer internships. This led to an over-subscription to programs in other places such as Ireland, which offers a finance program that ends in May.

Photo: Camille Rapay and Julia Schorr and Lucien Wang

In theory, it is possible to participate in fall OCR while studying abroad. And in fact, those who choose to do so see definite advantages to leaving campus during the fall semester.

“Penn does get pretty stressful and I thought that being abroad during the fall would nicely split up [my college experience] and allow that much needed breakaway from campus,” said College senior Catherine Said, who spent her last fall semester studying at the Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden.  

“My options didn’t revolve around OCR and I didn’t really have a desire to participate, so studying abroad in the fall was great," she said. 

Other students agreed that if OCR were not a factor, studying abroad in the fall is preferable to the spring.

“I didn’t want to miss Hey Day or meeting the new pledge class in my sorority … and Spring Fling is so fun,” said College junior Gabrielle Stone, who is studying abroad this fall. “I felt like it’s weird going abroad for an entire semester then going straight to summer and not seeing people until the fall again.”

Since OCR has prevented some students from being able to study abroad their junior year, the Penn Global office is also trying to encourage a global experience to more students.

Many of Penn’s partner schools are now allowing students who complete the required curriculum to go abroad in the spring of their sophomore year. Penn Global is entering its fourth semester offering Global Seminar classes, which are open to all grade levels and allow students to travel internationally for a week or two rather than a full semester.

“We want to see growth in our numbers,” Cossar said, noting that Career Services consistently tells students that most employers are comfortable doing Skype interviews in lieu of OCR.  

“There should be no reason why any Penn undergraduate student who wants to have a global opportunity shouldn’t be able to have one," Cossar said.

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