PROVO U.S. college students are studying abroad in record numbers, and Utah's study abroad programs appear to be growing faster than the national average, according to a new report.
Brigham Young University is Utah's study-abroad giant and ranks 16th in the nation with 1,637 students who studied abroad during the 2005-06 school year, according to the annual Open Doors survey by the Institute of International Education.
Overall, the number of students from Utah colleges and universities in study abroad programs during the 2005-06 school year jumped 21 percent over the previous year. Nationally, the number increased 8.5 percent.
The University of Utah had the state's second-largest study abroad program with 512 students in 2005-06, a 10 percent increase over the year before.
About half of the total increase at Utah schools came from BYU's ability to start counting its performing arts students who study abroad. That added 250 students to the school's overall count in 2005-06 that weren't included the year before.
Those numbers offset some of the losses BYU encountered at the start of the decade when it shut down the study abroad program at its Jerusalem Center because of political unrest in the city. The Jerusalem program's capacity is 170, but it was closed down from November 2000 until the beginning of this year.
In January, BYU reopened the Jerusalem program with 44 students the number that could fit on a single bus for tours of the city. The university increased the number to 88 students two busloads for both the spring and summer terms, and it has 80 students there this semester, when it began using slightly smaller buses.
None of those students were counted in the 2007 Open Doors survey, which uses data from the previous year.
BYU will have 80 students in Jerusalem again during the Winter Semester that begins in January. The university is accepting applications for 80 available slots for both the spring and summer terms.
BYU will evaluate the situation again next year to see if expansion of the program is warranted, spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said.
"The hope is to get to where we once were at 170," she said.
The breadth of BYU's study abroad programs is somewhat unique. Many universities send abroad students in the humanities and social sciences, but BYU sends students abroad from all 12 of the colleges on its campus, including nursing, law and engineering.
"Part of the reason we have the opportunity to do this is because of the language abilities of our students," Jenkins said. More than 75 percent of BYU students speak a language other than their native tongue.
Alexis Plowman, a BYU senior from Malad, Idaho, studied in Paris in the fall of 2005 because she always wanted to visit what she called "the capital of the world in fashion, food and art." She came back with a new viewpoint on world politics, courtesy of courses on the comparative politics of France and the United States and months living with a French family.
"Studying abroad broadens your perspective and gives you better insight into other countries' positions," she said.BYU also ranked ninth in short-term study abroad programs, which are those that last eight weeks and generally take place in the spring or summer. Short-term programs accounted for 1,079 of the BYU students who studied abroad in 2005-06.