This post was written by Hatchet reporters Shelby Hartman and Gabrielle Bluestone.
Sixty-seven percent of students who studied abroad in the last ten years were female, according to data from the Office of Study Abroad.
Those numbers coincide with a recent study that found more women study abroad nation-wide. The study, conducted by the Iowa Center for Research on Undergraduate Education, found that more women study abroad for several reasons, including that women tend to be more affected than males by influential authority figures and educational contexts.
The study also said many researchers have hypothesized that the gender-gap also occurs because more women are humanities majors which tend to be overly-represented in study abroad programs.
“Programs that are specifically designed for American study abroad students often focus on the humanities and social sciences,” Director of the Office of Study Abroad Robert Hallworth said in an e-mail.
Schools across the nation have found some progress in improving participation in science and pre-professional majors, according to the study. Hallworth said the University has been making an concentrated effort to encourage more men to study abroad through the promotion of study abroad opportunities for a more diverse range of majors.
Typically GW students studying non-humanities majors, like fields within the School of Engineering and Applied Science, can face academic roadblocks in studying abroad. In the past, only five or six SEAS students per class have gone abroad due to a curriculum that requires SEAS students take up to 18 credits per semester in specialized engineering classes.
SEAS Dean David Dolling has spearheaded a new initiative this year to allow more abroad courses to count towards SEAS graduation. More than 10 SEAS students will travel abroad this year to the University College in Dublin, and the school is actively searching for other locations to send students.
“Social sciences, humanities and foreign language [majors] are traditionally the most represented among students abroad,” Hallworth said. “The number of business majors continues to grow and we are making concerted efforts to increase engineering students’ opportunities to study abroad.”
But despite the obvious imbalance, Hallworth said he hasn’t seen a specific factor indicating why in his own work with study abroad programs.
“This is a question that international education professionals often discuss; it’s difficult to pinpoint substantial evidence,” Hallworth said. “On our GW study abroad survey, we ask students to rate the importance of different factors on their decision to study abroad (e.g., cultural experience, desire to learn a foreign language, career development, encouragement from family, etc.) and there are no substantial differences in the percentage of students who respond based on gender.”
Senior Jake Lansburgh who spent spring semester attending the Council on International Educational Exchance (CIEE) in Shanghai, said he decided to study abroad because he wanted the cultural experience.
“I went because I needed to be completely tossed out of my comfort zone,” Lansburgh said. “China was so different than anything I’ve ever experienced and made me realize how big and different the world really was.”