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Report: CU Boulder ranks among top schools in nation for students studying abroad

University also enrolls most international students in state

The buffalo statue near Folsom Field on the University of Colorado Boulder campus.
The buffalo statue near Folsom Field on the University of Colorado Boulder campus.

The number of University of Colorado Boulder students studying abroad is increasing at a rate that outpaces the national average, according to a new report from the Institute for International Education.

Nearly 2,000 CU Boulder students studied abroad last year, with international academic experiences ranging from weeklong class trips to more traditional semester-long programs.

That’s a nearly 8% increase from the 2016-2017 school year, said CU Boulder Education Abroad Director Mary Dando, compared to the nearly 3% increase across the country.

CU Boulder ranks fifth nationally for universities sending students on semester-long study programs, according to the report, and ranks 26th for the total number of students earning academic credit abroad.

The growth is owed to university support, increasing the number and types of programs and increasing scholarships for students, Dando said.

Over the last 10 years, CU Boulder staff have made it a priority to increase the opportunities for students to study abroad, she said.

“It’s very important to have an in-depth understanding of a diverse global context,” Dando said. “There’s a high likelihood that students, during their career, will be working with people of other cultures and there’s a high need for them to have that cultural competency.”

There are now 450 programs for students to choose from, Dando said, including international internships and 40 faculty-lead Global Seminars.

Associate Professor Suzanne Magnanini teaches a Global Seminar in Florence, Italy, on Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno.”

“Dante describes hell as a city, and he makes references to specific architectural structures or generic structures, so it really enriches it for students who maybe have never traveled outside of the U.S.,” she said. “Having that chance to see what Dante is talking about up close, to climb the towers he mentions, it adds so much to the poem.”

It’s a tiring three weeks for Magnanini, but in a good way, because students are so engaged and making so many connections they’re constantly asking questions.

Experiences like the Global Seminars give students a chance to study abroad who can’t fit the traditional semester or year model into their education, Magnanini said.

“We have students who are athletes, who work all summer, who have family obligations, and I think these are great because they provide another option for students, and they allow everyone the possibility to try their hand at study abroad,” she said.

Of the students who study abroad on short-term trips, 45% will opt to study abroad again, Dando said.

CU Boulder senior Jessie Kelly did a weeklong study abroad trip with a business class in Vietnam and then did a semester abroad in Rome, Madrid and Copenhagen, Denmark.

Kelly said she attributes the trips to helping her mature and identify her values.

“I truly believe you mature so much more in that semester abroad than you do in three years of college, and if people don’t go abroad they won’t get that,” she said. “You’re learning about the world and learning about the world outside of the small bubble you live in day to day.”

The Institute for International Education report also found that CU Boulder enrolls the most international students among Colorado’s universities, with 3,293 students from 103 countries on campus last year. Those students had a $169.3 million impact and supported 2,321 direct and indirect jobs, according to the university.

“Students from around the world continue to be drawn to our strong academic programs and unique research opportunities,” Diana Salazar, director of CU Boulder’s International Student and Scholar Services, said in a statement.

Most of Colorado’s 11,888 international students last year were from China, India, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and South Korea and contributed $470.7 million to the state’s economy, according to the report.

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