by Cassie Kornblau, The Badger Herald
University of Wisconsin students are choosing to study abroad in record numbers despite the U.S. dollar weakening in comparison to foreign currencies.
According to the most recent United States Study Abroad Survey from fall 2005 to summer 2006, 1,616 UW students earned academic credit toward their degree through study abroad.
Julie Lindsey, assistant director of International Academic Programs, said IAP had a 20 percent increase in participants from 2006-07, although the survey data has yet to be formally released. IAP anticipates another 20 percent increase for the 2007-08 year as well.
Lindsey said she suspects there are general increases in study abroad applicants because IAP continues to add new programs, as well as opportunities for students who can only study abroad for a shorter period of time, such as during the summer and winter modules.
“As the university and our society talks more about studying abroad and global competence skills, more employers are looking for that skill for a degree program or job set,” Lindsey said. “Having a study abroad or international experience makes them more employable.”
Lindsey said with the U.S. dollar weak in so many economies — one U.S. dollar is equivalent to 68 cents of one Euro, according to the currency market at its closing Friday — IAP has been trying to estimate fees and additional program costs accurately.
Despite the value of the dollar decreasing, none of the study abroad program fees have gone up, and for the majority of the programs, students are going to pay what it costs in Madison, Lindsey said.
“The programs have a pretty set price range,” Lindsey said. “We are trying to keep everything affordable.”
But Lindsey said students still must fund their flight to go overseas, as well as their spending money.
Susan Fischer, director of financial aid, said the financial aid office usually does not have any more money to give students who are studying abroad.
Fischer said from her experience most students are pretty set on what they want to do and find a way to stretch their dollar as much as possible.
“I know there is interest in students becoming more globally aware,” Fischer said. “I still think it is a worthwhile experience, despite the cost.”
UW junior Lisa Goldberg said she is very aware of the high cost to study abroad in London next semester, but chose the program because they speak English.
Goldberg said she is taking out more money next semester in student loans than she has in the past to fund this experience and will do whatever she can to save money once she is there.
“London is a place I always wanted to go, and you can only go once,” Goldberg said. “I will do whatever I can to save money but still have a good experience.”