College manages to avert high study away rejection rate

By Annie Lewine

-Macalester’s International Center has approved the proposals of 168 of the 169 students who applied to study away this spring. In the end, more than 30 students over the cap of 135 that administrators had initially set for the spring study abroad cohort will be able to study away from Macalester next semester.”We knew that students who were academically qualified would not be able to go [if Macalester did not exceed the cap],” Provost Diane Michelfelder said. “We know that many students come to Macalester with a keen interest in studying away and in many cases have constructed their academic experience with an eye to leading up to studying away.”

The college budgeted for 260 students to study abroad for the 2007-08 school year, at an average cost of $12,250 for each semester slot, Michelfelder said. The additional students approved for study abroad will cost the college about $280,000 more. This expenditure will be funded in part by the excess revenue generated by the tuition from the first-year class, which was larger than anticipated.

Students were happy to discover that the spring study abroad enrollment would be higher than expected.

“They’ve been coming across like they were going to be really strict about the number of students allowed to study abroad,” said David Wheeler ’09, who was approved to study in Egypt this spring. “I think it’s great that basically everyone was accepted. It really shows their commitment to internationalism.”

Although most students were approved, not all will actually study abroad in the spring, according to Paula Paul-Wagner, assistant director of the International Center.

“Even though nearly all Macalester students who applied were approved by the Macalester Study Abroad Review Committee, some will not go abroad because of personal conflicts, [or because] their program was full to capacity or did not accept them,” Paul-Wagner said.

Students who study abroad tend to travel and live in places not as popular among students at other colleges.

“It’s clear that Mac students are less oriented toward Europe and more toward Africa and Latin America than U.S. students generally,” said Paul Nelson, study abroad coordinator. Nationwide, about 45 percent of students study abroad in continental Europe, while only 32 percent of Macalester students studying abroad next semester will be in that region, Nelson said.

Almost 20 students are planning to study in Africa next spring, mostly in Senegal, Cameroon and South Africa, and almost 40 plan to study somewhere in Latin America, while 50 will be studying in Continental Europe. Other destinations include China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, Nelson said.

Over the course of their academic careers, about 60 percent of students study abroad for a semester or a year-long program, and even more participate in summer and January trips abroad, Paul-Wagner said.

“Study abroad is an integral part of the Macalester College mission, especially in reference to the pillar of internationalism,” she said. “When students are on campus, their education is infused with international perspectives through an internationally focused faculty and a large number of international students studying on campus.

“However, the study abroad experience brings classroom learning into reality by giving students a ‘live’ experience-in country or on-site-which brings theory and practice together.”

Many students choose to bring theory and practice together by engaging in independent studies during their semester or year abroad. Some topics for independent research this spring, Nelson said, include the declining frog populations in Panama, cold-water marine biology in Denmark, Ayurvedic medicine in India, collision of aboriginal and western world views in Australia, the Basque language in Chile, the Welsh language in Wales, and the creation of a children’s choir on the streets of Quito.

“The ambition and imagination motivating these studies are impressive,” Nelson said.