USD Study Abroad Ranks No. 1

Inside USD -- The University of San Diego retained and strengthened its No. 1 ranking among national institutions for undergraduate participation in study abroad programs, according to the Institute of International Education’s 2012 Open Doors report released on Nov. 12.

The report, which covers the 2010-11 academic year, marks USD’s second straight year at No. 1 for doctorate institutions. The newest data indicated USD’s strongest showing in participation and percentage rates to date. The report listed 1,031 USD students who did study abroad among its 1,188 conferred undergraduate degrees for an estimated participation percentage of 86.8. Those numbers were up sharply from the 2011 report with 825 students, 1,156 degrees and a 71.4 clip for the 2009-10 academic year.

“I’m very excited about the exponential growth between last year and this year’s ranking,” said Kira Espiritu, director of USD’s International Study Abroad program since 2007. “We’ve definitely seen it grow the last several years.”

She said USD has gone from not being ranked among the top 40 in the 2007 Open Doors report to sixth in 2008 and second in 2009 and 2010 before last year’s rise to the top.

Espiritu credited several factors for USD’s consistent rise, but specific to the newest data is USD’s innovative Second-Year Experience Study Abroad Intersession program and a significant increase in students doing a full semester abroad.

“It used to be two-thirds of our students would do short-term study abroad and one-third for a semester, but now it’s more like 50-50,” Espiritu said.

In 2010-11, Espiritu said USD offered 11 Intersession programs, including three SYE destinations — Oxford/London, England, Barcelona, Spain and Florence, Italy — in January 2011 and six summer programs. Comparably, Espiritu said USD students did full semester programs in 32 different places in Fall 2010 and 27 in Spring 2011.

Espiritu said popular destinations for students included London and Paris during Intersession and, along with Duncans, Jamaica, in the summer. Top semester destinations included Florence and Madrid. Espiritu added that some countries, such as China, now have expanded choices. Students are doing semester foreign exchange programs and they are increasingly expanding their travel destination desire beyond traditional sites.

Furthermore, USD is one of the top institutions nationally for sending students on Semester at Sea, a program that has classes onboard a cruise ship and visits 12 countries to provide tremendously rich cultural awareness and research opportunities.

Denise Dimon, associate provost for international affairs, said the data strengthens USD’s deep commitment to internationalization, both abroad and at USD. Prospective students and parents are increasingly basing college decisions on an institution’s study abroad opportunities. International student enrollment at USD, meanwhile, has steadily increased, Dimon said.

“The study abroad numbers reflect that as a university community we’re committed to global understanding and citizenship. Our faculty engages in international research and collaborates with colleagues around the world. Our Center for Community Service-Learning and University Ministry engage students in compassionate service through local and global programs. Our Changemaker Hub is a catalyst for fostering change to help solve the world’s problems, recognizing our interconnectedness with others around the world,” Dimon said.

The International Center, located in Serra Hall 315, is a year-round study abroad information hub on campus. Students can get answers to their questions, apply for scholarships for short-term programs or go to its website and access the online application.

The university’s commitment to raising awareness about study abroad and more is on display this week. Through Nov. 17, USD is hosting events and activities tied to International Education Week, a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of State to recognize the global exchange environment between the U.S. and other countries.

“It’s part of our history and DNA as a Roman Catholic institution,” Dimon said. “Having our students spend part of their educational experience abroad helps them develop empathy and understanding of different cultures, their histories, institutions and more. Study abroad helps our students to learn more about themselves and to see how they fit in a larger world community.”

— Ryan T. Blystone