The Open Doors Report, published by the Institute of International Education, ranked St. Olaf as the leading baccalaureate institution in the United States by total number of study abroad students in from 2001-2005. Data for 2005-2006 is not yet available.
In 2004-2005, 657 St. Olaf students studied abroad in Western and Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, Africa, Central America, South America and North America and took part in more than 120 international and off-campus programs. St. Olaf sends students abroad on its own programs, on programs offered by study-abroad organizations, such as IES, HECUA and ACM, as well as overseas universities for direct enrollment. The college currently offers 76 semester and year-long international and domestic study programs.
Last year, 765 Oles studied on an off-campus interim, semester or yearlong program, according to Director of International and Off-Campus Studies Eric Lund. Of the students on short-term programs, 427 studied internationally and 105 studied on domestic programs. Of the students studying off-campus for a semester or an entire year, 225 participated in international programs and eight in domestic programs.
Lund said that over 70 percent of the Class of 2006 studied internationally at least once; the percentage increases about 8.4 percent if domestic off-campus programs are included.
The IIE Open Door Report calculates its percentages differently, however, by dividing the total number of programs in which students participate by the number of graduating students. This method results in a higher number of 92.2 percent, due to students who participated in more than one program before graduation.
Lund was not surprised to hear about St. Olaf's most recent ranking. "I think we'd be more surprised if we weren't on the list," he said. Associate Director of International and Off-Campus Studies Kathy Tuma added that the department continues to be pleased with the rankings.
According to Lund, any students explicitly say they chose to attend St. Olaf because of its study abroad program. "There are some [prospective] students who even know which program they want to go on," he said, noting that St. Olaf has a family history of study abroad programs, such as parents who went on global semester and now have children going on global.
Lund recently conducted a survey of Oles who graduated 5 and 10 years ago to see how their study abroad experience impacted their awareness of and interest in cultural issues, personal development and career choice. In the feedback Lund received, alumni indicated that having gone on a study abroad program was one of their most significant experiences during their time at St. Olaf. He found that many of the alumni are still doing things in their occupations that they first became interested in while studying abroad. "Almost without exception, people talked about the positive impact [of their study-abroad experience]," Lund said.