This is the time of year when college students are making plans to study overseas in the fall.
Many students attend colleges overseas during their junior year. Curiously enough, most of those students are women. Young men only represent about a third of the 270,600 American students studying overseas. That percentage, by the way, has remained about the same for more than two decades.
I thought my son Ben was going to be among the young men who remained in the U.S. for college. Before he started college, he insisted that he had zero interest in pursuing a semester abroad. Even after a family trip to visit our daughter, who was spending two semesters at the University of Barcelona, Ben was insistent that he wasn’t going anywhere.
During his first semester in college, however, Ben slowly started to change his mind. His academic advisor urged him to consider an experience abroad and he said he might be open to studying abroad, but only in an English-speaking country. Ireland, England, Australia or New Zealand were on his list.
My husband and I were surprised when he called us recently to tell us that he would be studying in Budapest, Hungary in the fall! Hungary offered the classes in math and art that interested him.
I can think of a couple of reasons why Ben relented.
No. 1. He likes his academic advisor and the professor was persuasive.
No. 2. Many of this friends will be studying abroad in the fall and he didn’t want to be left behind.
Why Men Don’t Study Abroad
Insiders offer plenty of reason why young men are more interested in staying put for college.
Fifty seven percent of American colleges students are women so they are going to represent the majority of students overseas, but that still doesn’t explain the large gender disparity.
Some suggest that young men gravitate to majors that haven’t traditionally gone overseas such as business and engineering, but business majors now represent the second-largest group studying abroad after social science majors. Engineering majors heading abroad has experienced record growth. When adjusted for the gender imbalance in these majors, women still predominate.
Some study-abroad administrators also suggest that men are less willing to leave their friends behind. Interest in studying in another country is greater among men if they have been involved in diverse experiences at their schools.
Parents are much more likely to influence their daughters into studying overseas than their sons, who are more apt to take their cues from their friends.
Universities have been encouraging men to attend school abroad by targeting them with a different message. At Michigan State, for instance, women receive the traditional message that emphasizes the cultural and experiential benefits. In contrast, men are told that studying aboard can help boost their job prospects. Some schools are even offering internships abroad, which are particularly appealing to men.
If you want to learn more about this subject, here is a lengthy article that appeared this week in The Chronicle of Higher Education: