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January 18, 2011 - 

Calvin College stands first among the top 40 baccalaureate institutions in the United States for the number of students who study abroad in a given year, as ranked by the International Educational Exchange.

Ellen Monsma, Calvin's outgoing director of off-campus programs, sees the ranking as validation of the college's efforts to promote international education. "Calvin has really encouraged students to do something off-campus during their college careers, and that has sparked interest," Monsma said. "Our numbers have just continued to grow."

On-campus research aligns with the findings. "When we did a survey of last May's graduating class, we asked them if they had done any off-campus program, whether it was a semester or an interim," said Monsma. "Two-thirds had done at least one, and some had done more than one."

In the 2008 report, which uses data from the previous school year, Calvin had 632 students who studied abroad in semester programs, interims, and other programs.

Calvin's many interim courses based in other countries multiply the opportunities to study abroad, said Monsma: "A lot of students can't get away for the semester because they have a job, or they have a tight program—like nursing or engineering. It's hard to go away for a semester, but they can go away for an interim."

Calvin currently offers interims in Honduras, Belize, Panama, Jamaica, Spain, Germany, Scotland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Greece, Switzerland, Kenya, Jordan, the Yucatan, China, Australia, and Tibet.

Monsma said students reap many benefits from studying outside their native countries. "Rather than learning about a country and a culture, they go and live in these places. It's an experience that helps make the learning more real. And I think, too, that being away from their normal context of being on campus teaches them independence and self-reliance," Monsma added.

"Interacting with other societies also stretches them in terms of their relationship with God and their experience with God's world and what it's all about."

—Myrna Anderson is a senior writer at Calvin College.

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