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One year ago, 437 Penn students and their parents grappled with a difficult choice: whether or not to return home from study abroad, or for some, whether or not to even go after all.

As it turns out, all but six decided to stick with their decision to study in a foreign country.

According to Geoffrey Gee, director of Study Abroad in the Office of International Programs, only two students returned to Penn early from their study abroad programs last fall, and four who had yet to leave decided to forego travel and continue their coursework at Penn instead.

"September 11 had remarkably little impact" on students' plans to study abroad, Gee said. "We were actually quite surprised that there were so few students wanting to return."

College senior Carlos Vega, who was studying in Paris on Sept. 11, did not consider leaving his program.

"The main thing that changed for me was that I tried to stop speaking English in public," Vega said. "I tried to never be the quintessential loud American."

Penn Study Abroad adopted a similarly calm, yet cautious, posture in the wake of the attacks. According to Gee, a sheet on safety and security measures that had routinely been handed out to students going abroad, was posted on the Internet in an effort to reassure parents and encourage students to be vigilant.

Only one Penn study abroad program was suspended over the past year -- the Israel program which was suspended, not due to Sept. 11, but to increasing turmoil in the region.

That program was suspended last April and has yet to be reinstated.

Other Penn abroad programs, however, not only withstood the immediate impact of Sept. 11, but succeeded in attracting the expected number of students in the spring.

That number, 198, was actually an increase from spring 2001, when 195 Penn students studied overseas.

For some students and their families, however, the idea of spending a full semester or year abroad was met with hesitation.

College junior Emily Blumenthal, who spent six weeks this summer on Penn's study abroad program in Florence, Italy, said that Sept. 11 had nothing to do with her decision to go away in the summer, which was based on her commitment to her extracurricular activities. Her parents, however, had been concerned.

"After September 11, my parents weren't thrilled at the idea of me being away for a whole semester," Blumenthal said. "Summer was a good compromise."

An August survey by the Institute of International Education shows that Foltz and Blumenthal are part of an international trend. The survey finds that almost a year after the attacks, 98 percent of international education professionals report that study abroad is more or equally as important now as it was before Sept. 11.

According to Peggy Blumenthal, Vice President for Education Services at IIE, study abroad is even more popular as a result of Sept. 11.

"It's pretty clear that the numbers of study abroad students have dramatically grown," Blumenthal said. "Young people are becoming aware that the way [Americans] see the world is very different from how other people see the world, and that they need to go out and see the world for themselves, not just read about it in the paper."

While there is no data showing that more Penn students are studying abroad this fall because of Sept. 11, the numbers do indicate a heightened interest.

Four hundred fifty-five Penn students, including those spending a full year away, are registered to take classes abroad this fall. That is 18 more than last year.

Gee agrees that these numbers are meaningful.

"I believe that people are more aware of being together in a world where we have to cooperate," he said. "There are people now who want to gain international experience because [after September 11] it is clear how important it is."

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