Why don’t students study abroad outside of Western Europe?

By Shannon Barbour

The Center for International Education and its new director of study abroad are working to increase awareness and participation of study abroad programs outside Western Europe by increasing the number of programs for underrepresented majors and identifying new locations for future programs.

New partnerships with universities such as Tel Aviv University in Israel are a direct result of the department’s new initiatives. The program will be offered for the first time this fall.

“Most of the reasons students don’t want to go is they’ve never thought about it,” said Robert Leis, exchange program and study abroad adviser. “We all fantasize about being in Paris, but very few of us fantasize about being in some of the other places farther east.”

Baylor offers study abroad programs at Swinburne University of Technology in Australia, Baylor in Australia and Tsinghua University in Beijing, to name a few.

A report released in 2013 by the center showed 70 percent of Baylor undergraduate students who study abroad in the spring and fall choose to do so in Western Europe.

The other 30 percent consists of 12 percent studying in Asia, 8 percent in South America, 4 percent in Central America, 4 percent in Australia and 2 percent in Africa.

Leis named distance, language barriers and a lack of knowledge about programs in eastern and southern countries as reasons for the disparity.

Baylor’s partnerships with liberal arts universities such as Hong Kong Baptist University in China, Baylor’s longest established exchange relationship, University of Tasmania in Australia and Yonsei University in South Korea offer a wide range of curriculum for visiting students said Leis.

The language barrier is often a concern for students who want to study abroad, but the majority of programs in Asia, Africa, Australia, South America and the Middle East are English-speaking programs, making them accessible to all students, Leis said.

“There are just as many English-only opportunities as in Europe, and more so actually. We don’t have as many Chinese-speaking students, so the opportunities we have in China, by demand, are going to have to be more English speaking,” Leis said.

The Center for International Education is offering more courses pre-approved by department chairs, which are equivalent to advanced level courses at Baylor.

Scholarships such as the Glennis McCrary Goodrich Scholarship are available to students in need of financial aid in addition to scholarships outside of Baylor.

Leis encourages business students to take their studies abroad to Hong Kong for international experience and to be taught by working professionals in a global city.

Plano junior Collin O’Brien, a French major, studied in Turkey during Eid-al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan, during a supplemental class trip for a course on Islam and the West.

“It was more culturally enriching to go to Turkey than to study in Paris and London. Going to Turkey was completely different than other Western European countries,” O’Brien said.

For more information on Baylor’s study abroad and exchange programs and the quickly approaching application deadlines, visit bearsabroad.baylor.edu and The Center for International Education.