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Penn students are continuing to go abroad in large numbers, despite trends to the contrary among many American universities.

According to Executive Director of the Office of International Programs Anne Waters, Penn has had “fairly steady” enrollment in its abroad programs in the past few years.

In general, about 23 percent of the junior class participates in abroad programs. In the calendar year 2007, 665 students went abroad in each semester. This number decreased to 589 students in 2008 and increased again to 611 for the 2009 calendar year.

Waters said this is due in large part to Penn’s encouragement of abroad programs.

“Penn’s commitment to global engagement is very strong despite a difficult economy,” she said.

This is evident in the Penn abroad structure, she said, which allows students to pay Penn tuition for their abroad institution and lets them retain their regular Penn financial aid award.

For this reason, students who are affected negatively by the economy are still able to go abroad.

On a national scale, however, 41 percent of schools surveyed by the Forum on Education Abroad noticed a marked decrease in students going abroad, according to a recent survey.

The trend may not continue — Brian Whalen, president and CEO of The Forum on Education Abroad, wrote in an e-mail that he does not expect a large decline in student participation this coming year.

“Education abroad has and will continue to become a critically important component of an undergraduate education at many colleges and universities,” he added.

Whalen differentiated between private and public universities, saying that the latter has reported “a greater negative impact than U.S. private colleges and universities.”

Even private universities have reported at least some decline in abroad enrollment, but Penn seems to be an exeption — the Office of International Programs has not noticed any drop in semester-long study abroad participants. Waters did say she noticed a decline in students attending full-year abroad sessions, though.

In the 2007-2008 academic year, 48 students chose to spend an entire year abroad — a number that has since decreased to 29 students in 2008-2009.

Waters attributed this drop to students’ desire to stay on campus, complete their majors at Penn, participate in on-campus recruitment, and “potentially” because it is more expensive than a semester abroad program.

The Office of International Programs has also seen an increase in “other forms of international work experience, research experience, or academically inspired travel,” Waters said.

Cobi Gantz, a sophomore in the College and Wharton, said he intends to enroll in a Penn abroad program for next year.

“It is a great opportunity to become immersed in a different culture and it will give me a unique perspective on education in a part of the world that I am not normally exposed to,” Gantz said. “ It will enhance my educational experience at Penn.”

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