The number of GW students studying abroad this semester is up 27 percent from last fall despite increased threats of terrorism abroad.
Last fall, 230 students participated in study abroad programs. This fall, there are 290 participants, and about 700 applicants have filed to study in a foreign country for the spring semester.
“Participation is growing at slightly more than the rate of the growth in the student body,” said Lynn Leonard, director of the Office of Study Abroad. The increased participation comes on the heels of high-profile international terrorism events such as the recent bombings in Egypt and Madrid.
“The Madrid train bombings do not appear to have affected the popularity of Spain as a destination to a great extent,” Leonard said. “We ought to be out there changing it, not being afraid of it.”
David Boxer, a sophomore in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, said threats of terrorism did not influence his decision to study abroad in Spain next semester.
“If I don’t go, it’s a victory for the terrorists,” Boxer said. “I sympathize with the Spaniards, but it is not going to deter me from going.”
Junior Ruth Link-Gelles, publicity director for the International Affairs Society, is currently studying in Spain. She said after living in Washington for two years, she is no longer worried about threats of terrorism.
“I got a lot of questions about whether I was scared to come to Spain, but my response was always the same: ‘I’ve lived six blocks from the White House for two years,'” she wrote in an e-mail. “If something was going to happen to me, it would probably happen in D.C.”
The heightened popularity of studying abroad has prompted the University to integrate two more programs – at the London School of Economics and Denmark International Study Program in Copenhagen – into its list of affiliated programs.
GW advertises about 200 affiliated programs, a number that is almost double what most similar size universities offer, Leonard said. Georgetown University carries 95 “approved” programs.
The 200 affiliated programs GW offers is significantly less than the 5,000 it allowed students to participate in only two years ago. Most of the 5,000 programs were unaffiliated with the University, meaning students did not have to pay GW tuition when they went abroad. All affiliated programs require students to pay tuition, though GW has a strict petition process for students who want to participate in an unaffiliated program.
Leonard said GW added the two programs following faculty recommendations and said the University is in the process of reviewing the current list of programs and determining what other needs may need to be filled.
“The list was developed and introduced just last year, so there have not been substantial changes in it, though a number are under consideration,” she said.
One decision that has disappointed some students is GW’s decision two years ago to leave the Semester at Sea Program off the list of affiliated programs. The program gave students the chance to take classes on a ship as they traveled around the world.
Leonard said no faculty member recommended its addition to the list last year.
Barbara Miller, an anthropology professor and the former coordinator for GW students attending the Semester at Sea program, said she was disappointed with the decision.
“The University might be concerned that because (students) go to eight or 10 different countries, they don’t get to experience enough in depth,” she said.
Students must petition the University to attend unaffiliated programs such as Semester at Sea. These programs may require more paperwork, and it is more difficult to have non-affiliate credits transfer back to GW, Leonard said.
“Anybody can go on it, they just have to work hard to get the credits transferred,” Miller said. “I’ve had a couple of students get into the program..