According to Open Doors (2002), the leading source of US national statistics on study abroad, twice as many undergraduate women study abroad as men. Gender imbalance in study abroad programs is a serious problem. Undeniably, study abroad offers great opportunities to students: learning new languages, learning about other cultures, seeing the world from new perspectives, seeing historical sites firsthand, experiencing foreign art, and appreciating new music, food, or dance. Looking at the results from StudentPoll (1999), which conducted in-depth interviews with over 500 freshmen undergraduates nationwide, the majority of students strongly agree that international experience offers many personal and professional benefits: well-rounded educational experience, the ability to learn a new language and culture, find a better job, and work with people from other cultures. Thus, men, by not studying abroad, are losing out on the many benefits of a multicultural experience. As men dominate many leadership positions in governments and corporations across America, positions that may desire a global outlook, it is important to understand what is keeping them away from studying abroad. This is especially true in a post-September 11th world, when cultural misunderstandings affect us all and can lead to tragic calamities.
Since I first heard that twice as many women study abroad as men last year as a graduate student of the School for International Training, I have been consumed with the desire to know why. I endeavored to write a paper exploring this gender imbalance for my coursework. After spending hours in the library poring over books and engaging in frustrating talks with professors, I discovered that there were no books or articles written on the subject; the mystery only spurred my interest to find out more. Puzzled by the lack of information on the subject, I conducted a survey of twenty of my peers to ask them why they thought there was a gender gap in study abroad. Astonishingly, I soon had fifteen new theories that helped me create my own. Looking at statistics from the Department of Education, Open Doors, and NAFSA (The National Association of International Educators), and reading books on women’s and men’s psychological development, I began to slowly uncover key aspects of the mystery. However, after completing the paper I felt I had more questions than answers, and wanted to learn more.
As SIT Study Abroad reflects similar national statistics in gender regarding college students who study internationally (76.25% female and 23.75% male in 2003), I decided to research SIT Study Abroad to help answer my research question: Why do more women study abroad than men at SIT Study Abroad? Three sub questions help focus my research: 1) How does curriculum affect men’s ability to study abroad? 2) How does women and men’s psychological development during the college years affect interest in study abroad? 3) How do colleges’ and universities’ support for the institution of study abroad affect participant growth?
Adkins, Maria Kristina, "Why are more women studying abroad than men? : investigation of the gender imbalance at SIT Study Abroad" (2004). Capstone Collection. 124.