Trends in SU Abroad applications show increasing popularity for Istanbul, non English-speaking countries

A tumultuous political landscape in Turkey has led to curiosity about SU Abroad's center in the country.

Syracuse University Study Abroad recently ranked as one of the nation’s leading cohorts for international exchange and collaboration according to U.S. News and World Reports. Now with eight fully functioning SU abroad campuses, dozens of summer and short-term programs and more than 100 World Partners, traveling abroad is becoming an increasingly popular component of an SU student’s college experience.

“Going abroad has become a part of the framework of this school.” -- Jennifer Horvath

While the nationwide average for students who engage in study abroad programs sits at just 9 percent, SU boasts more than four times that amount with nearly 40 percent of students traveling overseas at least once during their college experience, said Jennifer Horvath, SU Abroad's marketing and communications manager. “Going abroad has become a part of the framework of this school,” she said. “This is something we are very proud of, not just on behalf of our students but also for those who seek us out from other schools across the country.”

As college life changes to include a more internationally immersive experience, so have the destinations where students are choosing to study abroad. One of the most recent options is a semester-long program in Wroclaw, Poland, where students specifically study the theme of reconciliation in the region. While the SU London and Florence centers have traditionally been the most popular by far, Horvath said, programs in the Middle East and Asian territories have also shown tremendous growth.

“We are still accepting applications,” Horvath said, “but with our current information it looks like the numbers are continuing to increase for Istanbul, which is something that has been trending for the last few semesters.”

Although Istanbul and its surrounding areas are known for a tumultuous political landscape, Horvath said it’s this very factor that has awakened curiosity of this program. “Because Istanbul has been in the news so consistently it has finally penetrated the consciousness of Americans,” Horvath said. “I think it really put it on the map for students as this huge vibrant city with a lot of young people who really care about the future of the country. As an American, this is very attractive.”

Horath said that SU Abroad works to negotiate and in many ways harness the spirited and vigorous political tensions in places like Istanbul and now Hong Kong, turning these centers into an informative and educational experience.

Georgia Hamilton, an international relations and policy studies senior, traveled to Istanbul during the summer of 2013, in the midst of some of the city’s worst protests. While both she and her parents felt some trepidation, Hamilton said she had an incredibly safe, vibrant and well-rounded experience. 

Speaking fondly of the Istanbul center’s two staff members, Hamilton said she commends SU Abroad for its level of support given for students, especially in the face of a foreign language and culture. “Turkish is an extremely hard language to learn and understand, Hamilton said, “so being able to talk to the program leaders and other students at the center made the transition so much easier and more enjoyable.”

While students are typically more inclined to travel to English-speaking destinations, Horvath said this is becoming an increasingly less important factor. For Yvonne Lee, a magazine journalism and international relations senior, challenging herself to grasp a second language was one of her goals in going abroad.

“I chose to go to Beijing because I really wanted to get out of my comfort zone,” said Lee, who comes from a Chinese heritage but has little experience with the language. “I think that’s what studying abroad is all about — culture shock and a language barrier. I went from living in a Western liberal democracy to living in a communist country.”

Lee’s experience was so life-changing that she was inspired to become a part of the SU Abroad team, she said. Now acting as a student ambassador for the Beijing program, Lee works with the program councilor, Mary Fedorko, to support potential students, offer advice and encourage enrollment in this program.

“I wanted to be a student ambassador because I remember how scary it was to turn in that Beijing application and commit to that,” Lee said, noting she understands why students may be apprehensive about this program. “Everyone is so critical of Beijing given the air pollution, food safety and censorship. And sure, those are aspects that exist but they are quickly overshadowed by the vibrant culture of the country.”

Although SU Abroad has a sizable international footprint through center-based programs, offering opportunities in eight different countries, the options don’t stop there. By teaming up with more than 100 World Partners, students can essentially go anywhere. Sue Shane, who oversees all World Partner and short-term programs, said embarking on these opportunities that collaborate with non-governmental organizations is becoming the new trend. “Students aren’t going for just a good time in a new city,” Shane said. “There’s this real sense of wanting to gain a cultural consciousness, and a need to be fully immersed in an environment that will test them.”

Embracing the theme of sustainability, Shane spoke about a newly formed World Partner program in Iceland that places students in an eco-friendly village atop a volcano where they get to investigate recyclable thermal energy. Other programs involve opportunities to research geology in New Zealand or work with refugees in Ghana.

“It’s a complete door-opener for students who want to work in NGOs,” Shane said. NGO stands for non-governemental organization, which are not-for-profit companies.

  “Not only do they get to experience and commit to the work, but potential employers can see they understand what is required and are more likely to take the chance on these students.”

Fortunately for those who don’t have a semester to dedicate to going abroad, there are a plethora of short-term and summer programs available too. “The shorter programs are a really great outlet for students in very structured programs,” Shane said. “For instance, athletes in season or students from the School of Education who have intensely structured degree programs now have the chance to study abroad too.”

While short-term programs don’t give the same depth of exposure and immersion, Shane said she believes that students are still setting the groundwork for future interests and careers while becoming more socially able and culturally conscious. 

Post new comment

* Field must be completed for your comment to appear on The NewsHouse
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.