The University Record, April 12, 1993

U leads nation in international work, study programs

By Mary Jo Frank

A growing number of U-M students apparently concur with at least the first part of 16th-century English philosopher Francis Bacon’s statement: “Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.”

And, says William E. Nolting, director of the Overseas Opportunities Office in the International Center, many are choosing the most economical route for traveling outside the United States: work and international internships.

More than 200 undergraduates and recent graduates participate annually in internships, summer jobs, teaching and volunteer positions through the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), the Peace Corps and the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Exchange (IAESTE), which offers engineering and business internships. Another 250 graduate students participate in overseas internships, according to an estimate prepared by Ruth G. Hastie, director of international academic affairs.

CIEE, the country’s largest work-exchange program, recently recognized the U-M as the leader among U.S. universities in the number of students who participated in its programs. For five of the past seven years the U-M has sent the most students, ranging from 100 to 150 annually.

The U-M is second in the nation in the number of graduates who join the Peace Corps, behind the University of Wisconsin. For the IAESTE internships, the

U-M, with 12 to 15 interns, has led the nation for the past two years in number of participants, Nolting reports.

In addition to the some 200 undergraduate and 250 graduate students who work abroad, another 800 undergraduates participate in study programs and more than 3,000 travel abroad annually.

Work-abroad jobs range from internships within specific disciplines such as business or engineering to more traditional summer jobs at resorts or pubs.

Noting that U-M students are incredibly self-sufficient and independent, many create their own overseas opportunities, Nolting says.

Occasionally students come to the Overseas Opportunities Office (Room 7 of the International Center, housed in the south wing of the Michigan Union) asking about opportunities in countries staff members have never heard of.

Working in one of the best equipped libraries on international opportunities in the country, Nolting says they are usually able to find something.

The office serves as an information clearinghouse and refers students to programs offered by the U-M’s schools and colleges, including LS&A’s Office of International Programs.

The library, open 8 a.m.–noon and 1–5 p.m. weekdays, is divided into three sections:

—Study abroad featuring books on scholarships, college catalogs and overviews of various countries;

—Budget travel with information about how students, faculty and staff can travel inexpensively on their own;

—Work opportunities, a clearinghouse on international work and internship programs, including teaching English abroad and international careers.

The Overseas Opportunities Office is part of the International Center, which was founded before World War II. Study abroad advising started on a small scale in the 1950s, Nolting says.

It is staffed by Nolting; Jeannine M. Lorenger, student services assistant; and volunteers, including approximately 30 peer advisers who share their recent first-hand international experiences.

Overseas Opportunities Office staff members log 11,000 to 12,000 contacts or requests for information annually.

Many of the contacts are generated by almost weekly presentations on work and study abroad opportunities, ranging from teaching English in Japan to studying engineering in England or volunteering overseas.

Among the office’s goals are to promote study and work outside Western Europe, particularly in Asia, East Europe and Africa, and to encourage students who statistically may be less likely to consider going abroad, including students of color.

Nolting notes that the cost of most work-abroad options is a fraction of the cost of study-abroad, and some work experiences are even self-financing.

It’s an attractive option for students who prefer a non-academic cultural-immersion experience, who want to live abroad inexpensively and independently for an extended period of time, who want to return overseas after a previous study- or travel-abroad experience, or who want to prepare themselves for an international career.

Universities are coming to appreciate the value students derive from international work experiences, according to Nolting.

“Additionally, the job market is beginning to tell students and institutions that such experience is good career preparation in a tight and increasingly internationalized economy,” Nolting adds.

Richard Carter, associate dean of students–multicultural, says the Overseas Opportunities Office “is doing an outstanding job. They have provided opportunities for our students to position themselves in a global economy.”