Study abroad saw drop, then growth

The number of GW students studying abroad fell 15 percent between the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 school years, echoing an overall national decline in the number of students going abroad.

GW’s decrease was much sharper than the national average, which saw an 0.8 percent decrease from the previous year, according to the Institute of International Education’s “Open Doors” survey. The 2008-2009 school year was the first time the survey registered a decline during its 25-year history.

In September, The Hatchet reported that GW’s study abroad program had seen an overall increase of between 5 and 7 percent over the past five years – numbers that averaged out the 15 percent drop of two years ago.

In the 2007-2008 academic year, 1,651 students studied abroad. In the 2008-2009 academic year, the number dropped to 1,396 students, but last year climbed back up to about 1,500. National data is not yet available for the 2009-2010 school year, so it is unknown whether GW’s increase last year is in line with the rest of the country.

The number of students that study abroad is important to the University, as study abroad students are not counted in GW’s overall student headcount, which is set by the D.C. Zoning Commission. The University has been inching closer to the maximum amount of students allowed on campus over the past few years.

Rob Hallworth, director of GW’s Office for Study Abroad, attributed the drop in numbers two years ago to the particularly grim economy and to the excitement surrounding a historic presidential election and inauguration during that year.

“In terms of the effects of the economy, I would say it has to do with travel expenses and any additional out-of-pocket expenses related to studying away for a semester or year,” Hallworth said.

Senior Ashley Frank said she also thought the decline was likely due to the election.

“I actually know someone who decided to study abroad that year and regretted their decision because they missed such an eventful election year,” Frank said.

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