Since on-campus recruiting began its shift to the fall from the spring approximately two years ago, trends in Penn study abroad programs have shifted too. Data shows that there has been an increase in students studying abroad in the spring semester and in less conventional study abroad programs over the summer and during school breaks.
Applications for GIP have also increased, and Penn Global reported receiving 621 applications for GIP, which is about three times more than they received last year. GIP placed 180 students in summer internships abroad, 61 more than last summer.
Next semester, Penn will offer 12 global seminars, the highest number since the program’s inception in 2016. Penn Global reports that between 200 and 250 students will participate in the various global seminars next year, around double the 117 who participated this past year.
The total number of students going abroad during the academic year does not seem to be changing despite the uptick in students traveling abroad in the summer.
Before the 2016 OCR shift, most Penn students studied abroad during the fall semester. In 2014, 408 students studied abroad in the fall compared to only 76 in the spring, and in 2015, 439 students studied abroad in the fall and 105 in the spring.
In the 2016-2017 year, 236 students went abroad in the fall and 241 in the spring. This past year, 231 students studied abroad in the fall and 264 are currently abroad for the 2018 spring semester — the highest spring study abroad number in recent years.
Penn Global, however, estimates 200 students will study abroad in the fall of 2018 — the lowest number during the fall semester in recent history.
Director of Penn Global Nigel Cossar attributes these changing trends in study abroad to the change in OCR dates, but also notes that more students are securing summer internships a year in advance and therefore do not feel as strong a need to participate in OCR.
“Many students are getting internships earlier, so there is less pressure to be actively involved in OCR because they’ve already secured their junior summer internship,” Cossar said. “With that in mind, assuming that the dates are fine, there would be nothing stopping a student from going abroad their junior fall."
Wharton senior Landon Echols is one of those students who studied abroad at the University of New South Wales in Sydney during his junior fall after having already secured an internship for the next summer.
“I decided to go [abroad] in the fall because I really wanted and need to step away from Penn for a little while and gain some perspective on everything,” Echols said.
College junior Ariana McGinn, who studied abroad in Sweden last fall, also said she had not planned to participate in OCR, so her study abroad decision was based mainly on her preferred program.
“It was honestly a Sweden-specific thing for me," McGinn said. "I really wanted to go to Sweden, and in the spring semester it is extremely dark: the sun sets at 2 p.m."
Many students, like College and Wharton sophomore Maria Curry, however, continue to plan their study abroad around OCR. Curry is currently studying abroad in Barcelona.
“When Penn moved OCR to fall, it kind of put people who want to study abroad in a tough spot,” Curry said, citing junior events such as fall OCR, spring Hey Day, and extracurricular activities as reasons for her early departure from campus. “It made sense for me to go as a sophomore."
Like Curry, many other students have been deciding to forgo studying abroad their junior year entirely. College junior Mustafa Amjad chose to participate in GIP and work at a startup in Jordan instead of spending time abroad during the school year.
“[GIP] made more sense for my academic requirements, and I could still immerse myself in a different culture and experience the country like a local,” Amjad said. “As an international student who eventually wants to work in either the Middle East or Southeast Asia, I wanted to use the summer to get a taste of working in the region.”
Other students are reaping the rewards of short-term abroad programs like PGS. College freshman Damon Duchenne took "The Middle East in Conflict — A Century of War and Peace" this spring and traveled to Jordan over spring break. He added that although he enjoyed the course, he still plans to study abroad in his junior year.
“For me, the PGS cannot replace study abroad," Duchenne said. "But, if someone finds it hard to spend all semester abroad, the PGS can be an alternative."
Cossar added that he is not yet sure if most students are using PGI and PGS programs as a replacement for traditional study abroad, and he hopes to keep collecting data and encouraging students to explore diverse study abroad options.
He predicts that the spring semester will continue to grow in popularity alongside Penn's less conventional study abroad options.
“What we don’t want to see happen is students choosing an internship over study abroad," Cossar said. "What we really want to see is that you can actually do both, and it’s very possible to do both."
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