Did you return to campus in January only to find hundreds of unfamiliar faces who weren’t here in the fall? If so, you’re not alone.
“It definitely seemed like there were more juniors back on campus in the spring than in the fall,” said junior Allison Taub. “I felt like every place I walked during the first week of school I saw someone new.”
Close to 500 Duke students studied away in fall 2022, according to Amy Bowes, associate director for the Duke Global Education Office for Undergraduates. Additionally, over 100 students are studying abroad this semester.
Those numbers are significantly higher than the 2021-22 academic year, Bowes wrote in an email to The Chronicle, since last year a lot of study away programming was still getting restarted amid the pandemic.
“I think we’ve seen an increase in study away interest because many students feel more confident traveling now as a lot of the pandemic restrictions like testing and masking have eased worldwide,” Bowes wrote.
The GEO has frequently recorded high student participation in European study away programs such as those in Denmark, Spain and the United Kingdom. In the 2021-22 academic year, Bowes wrote that participation numbers skewed heavily towards European programs because it was one of the first regions to welcome international students as the world re-opened.
“As countries in South America, Africa, Oceania and Asia loosen restrictions to allow international students entry, we are seeing student participation grow in all of these regions,” Bowes wrote.
Junior George Romero studied abroad last fall through the Duke in Madrid program. He estimated that, between Duke in Madrid and the engineering-focused IES Abroad program in Madrid, over 100 Duke students lived in the city simultaneously.
“You would definitely just see Duke students walking around the city,” Romero said. “If you were going out, you would run into a lot of Duke students. Even in different cities around Spain you would sometimes run into random Duke students.”
Going into the fall semester, Romero said he knew a lot of other students who were also studying abroad in Europe, especially in Denmark through the DIS Copenhagen program. He said it was always a bit strange to run into people he didn’t normally spend time with but still recognized while in a foreign city.
“It was a little bit of a jump scare,” he said.
Fall semester vs. spring semester
The GEO has conducted research on why Duke students prefer studying away in the fall semester as opposed to in the spring. They determined a few main reasons, primarily that students have more academic and pre-professional commitments in the spring.
“Many students use the spring semester to focus on applying and preparing for summer internships, interviewing for jobs, and preparing for graduate and professional schools,” Bowes wrote.
Taub said that while she knew many people studying abroad in the fall semester, including around 10 to 15 of her close friends, she hadn’t noticed a lot of people missing in the spring semester.
Junior Emily Zhao is one of those students who decided to study abroad during the spring semester. She is currently in Australia, and cited academic priorities as one of the main reasons she spent her fall semester at Duke.
“It worked out that most of my friends also decided to study abroad in the spring, and logistically there were some classes that I wanted to take for my major before I went abroad,” Zhao said. “I also wanted to be in Australia during the summer, not the winter.”
Sophomores, juniors and now seniors too
Around 47% of Duke undergraduates will study away in their time at the University, according to Bowes. The GEO currently supports programs in over 70 countries.
Historically, the majority of students have studied away during their sophomore or junior years. In the last two years, however, the GEO has noticed an increase in seniors studying away, since many of them missed the opportunity to study away earlier due to the pandemic.
Studying away during senior year can sometimes present unexpected challenges to students' academic schedules, though.
“It can be more difficult for seniors to study away because the process for transferring credits from foreign universities might delay timelines impacting their Duke graduation dates,” Bowes wrote.
She encouraged those thinking about studying away during senior year to consult with their academic dean and a GEO advisor.
Senior Mihir Patel studied abroad in Copenhagen fall 2022. However, he said that he wasn’t worried about missing out on senior-year activities while abroad, citing the fact that he visited 10 different countries.
“Honestly the thought never really crossed my mind to go junior year, partly because of COVID I just assumed I wouldn't really be able to do it. And then I realized after that I could still have an abroad experience,” Patel said.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Alison Korn is a Pratt junior and enterprise editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.