Bowdoin students studying abroad are seeking shorter stays, are mostly female, and are increasingly interested in unconventional programs—all trends that are reflected on a national level.

Shelley Barron '09 is one of an increasing number of Bowdoin students who choose to study abroad in the summer instead of during the academic year. After her junior year, Barron participated in a six-week program in Brazil that focused on sustainable development. Barron says that the six weeks she spent in Brazil were an "adequate amount of time" and that she enjoyed getting "to see what it was like to live in rural central Brazil."

According to Director of Off-Campus Study Stephen Hall, Barron's experience reflects both a national and a Bowdoin trend toward shorter study abroad experiences, with fewer students choosing to study abroad for the whole year. Nationally, more than half of all students studying abroad do so on short-term programs, mostly during the summer.

Data from the Office of Off-Campus Study reveals that only 9 percent of the 264 total Bowdoin students who are studying abroad in the 2008-2009 year are gone for both semesters, while nationally the percentage is even lower. Hall believes that the semester and summer study abroad programs are popular with students who are concerned with fitting in distribution requirements and finishing their majors.

Biology and environmental studies major Nick Norton '09 studied abroad in Zanzibar, Tanzania last spring. He said that while he entertained the idea of going on a program that had nothing to do with his studies at Bowdoin, in the end he "didn't have the luxury of not thinking about it in terms of the major" if he wanted to graduate this spring.

While Hall recognizes the value in spending more time at Bowdoin, he says he is still "a little disappointed" in the trend toward single semester and short-term programs. According to Hall, "there is something to be said for spending a full year away by yourself." Hall says he worries that students on shorter programs will not become as immersed in the culture as those who spend more time abroad.

Naima Hassan '09 chose to spend a year in Cairo, Egypt, for the reasons Hall cited. Hassan, who was born in Somalia, wanted to reconnect with North African and Islamic culture and decided that "one semester would not have been enough." Hassan says that she wanted to "brush up on Arabic," as well as "take classes about that region while in that region."

Although Hassan's decision to spend the year abroad is anomalous, her interest in the Middle East and North Africa is shared by others at Bowdoin and throughout the country. Hall expects to see a rise in students studying abroad in the region now that Arabic is taught at Bowdoin. The American University in Cairo, where Hassan studied, has just been added to the list of approved abroad programs, as well as the new School for International Training (SIT) programs in Morocco and Jordan.

In addition to the Middle East and North Africa, other regions of the developing world, especially in Africa and Asia, are becoming more popular study abroad destinations. Hall expects China to overtake Australia nationally, and says that this increase is reflected at the College, too. Hall says he suspects that the economic crisis is influencing students' decisions to study abroad in less expensive countries.

The country that is experiencing the most rapid growth among Bowdoin students is Denmark, where according to Annie Hancock '10, the price of a cup of coffee can run about $10. Hancock studied in Copenhagen this past fall at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) architecture program. She chose to focus on architecture becuase she found Bowdoin's department limited. In addition, she wanted to "get out of Maine" and live in a big city, as well as have the opportunity to travel around Europe. Hancock thinks Denmark is becoming increasingly popular because it is "an English-speaking European country other than the United Kingdom," and because thus far Copenhagen is not "overrun by Americans."

Indeed, more than 60 percent of Bowdoin students choose to study abroad in Europe, with the UK occupying the No. 1 spot. Just under 40 students studied in Great Britain alone in the 2008-2009 year, compared to 17 in all of Africa and 20 in Asia. According to Hall, Italy, Spain, and France occupy other top spots both nationally and at Bowdoin.

In addition to choosing to study abroad in Europe, Hall noted that another trend at Bowdoin is that more women study abroad than men. Sixty-three percent of all students studying abroad in the 2008-2009 year are women, a figure that is often even higher at Bowdoin's peer schools.

Assistant Director of Off-Campus Study Melissa Quinby recently conducted a study at Brown, Brandeis, and Bowdoin investigating why fewer men choose to study abroad. The study has five hypotheses. First, according to Quinby "men major in departments where study abroad is less readily available." Second, Quinby suggests that men may be more influenced by their peers to stay on campus, something she calls the maturity and development theory. Greater athletic commitments among men is the third hypothesis, and less prior experience in international travel and work is the fourth. Finally, Quinby hypothesizes that career paths might influence men to stay at their home universities.

"Studies have been done over and over again and nobody can answer this question," she says. Despite this, Quinby suspects that some of the hypotheses could be more or less applicable to Bowdoin. She believes that at Bowdoin "athletics aren't getting in the way for men or women who study abroad," but that more women major in languages, a fact confirmed by the Office of Institutional Research statistics. As of fall 2008, there are 70 Bowdoin women majoring in a foreign language and only 33 men. Additionally, 25 of these women studied abroad this year while only 10 of the men chose to.

Quinby says that the results from her study were inconclusive, and that none of the hypotheses are stronger than the others.