Northern Arizona University is in the top 10 nationwide for long-term study abroad programs, according to a recent report, while also bucking trends of decreasing long-term study opportunities.
The annual Institute of International Education Open Doors 2019 report has shown NAU steadily increasing in the last few years, moving from No. 17 in 2015, the first year it made the list, to No. 7 in the most recent report, which uses data from academic year (AY) 2017. NAU occupies the top 10 with universities such as New York University, Notre Dame and Pepperdine.
NAU’s achievement of increasing long-term study abroad is unique in the field. Since academic year 2005, data shows U.S. students studying abroad for an academic year or calendar year has decreased nationally from 37 percent to 30 percent. NAU is defying that trend, thanks in large part to two programs.
The Interdisciplinary Global Programs (IGP) and Education Abroad (EA) teams within the Center for International Education provide NAU students with opportunities to study abroad anywhere from one week to one year in more than 250 programs in 80 countries. Students can study, intern, volunteer and receive academic credit for their experiences abroad. Both teams work closely with the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships (OFSA) to provide programs that accept NAU and federal aid.
“The trend for NAU students to do long-term study abroad programs highlights the collaborative efforts between the IGP and EA teams,” said Melissa Armstrong, associate director for the Center for International Education and Director of IGP. “Our partnerships on campus, particularly with the language, STEM and business departments and OFSA have allowed us to facilitate longer, more immersive study abroad experiences.”
In IGP, which is a five-year program, students receive two bachelor’s degrees, one in a STEM or business field and one in cultural studies or a language (Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese or Spanish). IGP students spend an entire year abroad taking classes and committing to a full-time fieldwork experience. IGP sent its first cohort in 2013, but the program gained significant interest in 2015 when numbers quadrupled.
Honors College student Mia Pique is one of those participants. She recently returned from Universidad de Tucumán in Argentina where she studied Spanish and geology. She completed an internship on the eruptive behavior of Reventador Volcano in Ecuador with a mentor from the Geophysics Institute in Quito.
“I feel so blessed to have chosen NAU and for my undergrad to have led me to IGP,” she said. “I truly do not think my life would be what it has become today without it. Also, you have created the possibility for so many students to take part in some incredible research projects and internships, as well as learn about the world beyond what was ever imagined by us prior to our departures.”
“Although we provide access to all durations of study, we are particularly proud of the students who commit to spend a year abroad,” EA director Angelina Palumbo said. “The collaborations on campus as well as our strategic partnerships abroad have helped all NAU students have the opportunity to study for longer durations, staying on track for graduation.”