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Nearly two-thirds of SLU students study abroad during college careers

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CANTON — Nearly two-thirds of the students at St. Lawrence University study abroad at some point during their undergraduate experience, earning the university national recognition for the number of students who participate in overseas programming.

The Institute of International Education released its annual Open Doors report on Nov. 11 on data for the 2011-12 academic year. In the report, St. Lawrence ranked favorably among the nation’s baccalaureate institutions for the total number of students who study abroad and for the number of students who take part in semester-long overseas programs.

As students continue to look for greater educational opportunities during their time in college, the IIE’s acknowledgement of study abroad participation highlights the success of St. Lawrence’s international efforts.

“It is increasingly essential that students learn the skills that are needed in an increasingly interconnected world,” said Karl Schonberg, associate dean of international studies. “Students find that study abroad programs are a useful addition to the need to learn about other cultures and to function in those cultures that are not their own. St. Lawrence has a long tradition of doing this well, and students come to St. Lawrence because of what we offer.”

While there is a rising trend for students to take part in short-term study abroad opportunities, typically for eight weeks or less, St. Lawrence students tend to take part in longer, semester-long study abroad programs. The university ranked 18th in the nation among four-year institutions for the total number of students taking part in semester-long study abroad programs, sending 240 students overseas in 2011-12.

“Semester-long is the important number here,” said Kelly Lawson-Khalidi, director of off-campus programs. “It’s definitely a factor in a student’s decision about where to attend, as more students are looking for that option. A full semester gives them more cross-cultural experience, and that’s the bigger focus for us in the Center (for Intercultural and International Studies).”

In the 2012-13 academic year, 51 percent of St. Lawrence students took part in either a semester-long or yearlong study abroad program, up 3 percent from the previous year.

St. Lawrence ranked 27 in the nation among baccalaureate institutions for the total number of students who studied abroad for any duration, sending 353, or 66 percent of the student population, overseas in 2011-12.

“We’re a bit unusual in that all students, whether they are athletes or in a rigorous academic program such as pre-med, are actually encouraged by their professors and their coaches to take a semester off to study abroad,” Schonberg said. “That’s not always the case at other institutions.”

As part of its commitment to an innovative and liberal arts education, St. Lawrence encourages its students to engage globally.

“Connecting the global to the local is a major emphasis of St. Lawrence’s Strategic Map,” Schonberg said. “As a result, our students who study abroad are better prepared and are getting more out of their experience here.”

The news comes on the heels of St. Lawrence’s upcoming celebration of its 40 years in Kenya and 50 years in France – the institution’s first study abroad program. Both programs will be recognized during Reunion Weekend in June 2014.

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