Global Education Office implements new incentives to study abroad in the fall

Photo of the Stevenson bridge

VSG elections will be entirely digital this year in the wake of changes due to COVID-19. Photo courtesy Claire Barnett

Eva Durchholz

The Global Education Office (GEO) announced in full the benefits granted to students who choose to study abroad in the fall instead of the spring semester, beginning Fall 2019.

All students studying abroad in the fall will receive advantages in registering housing and classes at Vanderbilt. Notably, students studying abroad in the fall will be able to register for classes before students on campus and will receive a half-point bonus, equivalent to an additional semester of seniority, in applying for single rooms and authorization to live off-campus.

Additionally, students who study abroad in the fall can receive benefits including up to $1,000 in scholarships, flight credits, and/or a stipend, depending on which program they go abroad with, as outlined in the GEO fall study abroad page.

As recently as four years ago, Vanderbilt students were split about 50/50 on decisions to study abroad in the spring versus the fall semester, according to said GEO interim director Arik Ohnstad. But in the past few years, students have gravitated more and more towards the spring semester – now, about 80 percent of Vanderbilt students who study abroad choose to do so in the spring semester, Ohnstad said. This trend toward students choosing to study abroad in the spring semester instead of the fall semester is a common phenomenon on other college campuses, Ohnstad said.

According to Ohnstad, Vanderbilt drew inspiration from similar incentives employed at George Washington University to encourage students to study abroad in the fall. The alternative was to cap the amount of students that are allowed to study abroad in the spring, as some universities have done.

“I am planning on studying abroad in the fall, but up until the incentives I hadn’t really thought about the fall,” said Vanderbilt sophomore Mallory Hall. “I think the incentives definitely do hold some weight. They changed the decision of my entire friend group to study abroad in the fall.”

Ohnstad said that the GEO had received positive feedback from students when the first round of the incentives, consisting of priority class registration and stipends and scholarships from study abroad partners, were announced at a fall study abroad open house on Jan. 23. Some students, however, have questioned the incentives.

“I’m not sure if housing and course registration incentives are necessarily fair,” said Vanderbilt sophomore Wesley Wei. “I question the fairness mostly because housing and course registration dramatically affects a student’s residential and academic life, and such an incentive, though it may work, can often interrupt other students’ schedules or four-year plans that they have carefully planned out.”

Wei said that while the incentives may not be entirely fair, they are enticing and he would consider them if he were able to study abroad.

In short, according to Ohnstad, the university wants to make it easier for students to choose to study abroad in the fall.

“If we could get studying abroad more balanced, I think it could be better for student life overall,” Ohnstad said.