If you're considering taking a French class within strolling distance of the Eiffel Tower next year, you're part of a growing group.
Today about 5 percent of American college graduates have studied or worked abroad, double the number who did so 10 years ago, says William Hoffa, an international educator and author of the book, "Study Abroad: A Parent's Guide." Diverse programs, better financial-aid packages, and a global economy have sparked stronger interest in foreign study, he says. Students also recognize that company recruiters favor candidates who can bring international perspective to their jobs. "There is an educational experience [abroad] that can't be absorbed on a college campus," Hoffa says. "Students return more worldly ... more empathetic. It heightens their sense of what it means to be part of a smaller minority."
While traditional study-abroad programs that immerse visitors in one culture are still popular, students are increasingly choosing shorter trips or ones that span numerous countries, he says. Schools today offer a wider variety of destinations that address social issues or world problems. Students can do field work in a Brazilian rain forest, study urban planning in Helsinki, volunteer in Nepal, or learn international business in Beijing. For those considering a stint abroad, here are some sources that will make finding housing, figuring out classes, budgeting costs, and researching scholarships a bit easier.
*"Academic Year Abroad 1999-2000" is this year's annual Institute of International Education (www.iie.org) directory, ($44.95). It describes nearly 2,700 programs in more than 70 countries. It analyzes learning choices like semester studies, field research, or internships.
*"Study Abroad: A Parent's Guide," by William Hoffa (NAFSA, $14.95) helps parents and their children make key decisions about when and where to go, what to do once they're there, and how to adjust after they return. It discusses financial aid and scholarships.
*www.studyabroad.com offers a directory of thousands of programs in more than 100 countries and links to other Web sites.
*www.petersons.com has summaries of study-abroad programs year round, as well as helpful articles and resources.
*www.istc.umn.edu is a University of Minnesota site, which includes databases, resources, and scholarship information.