The Office of International Education staff received 312 applications for more than 75 study abroad programs for the fall 2013 semester.
About twice as many students study abroad in the fall semester as in the spring, said Michele Cox, study abroad director.
This year's application numbers are near the average from the past three years, with Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Australia being the destinations that received the most applications. These areas, which Cox said were "traditional study abroad locations," have been among the top five destinations for the past two decades; the least popular locations among Richmond students include Asia, Scandinavia and Latin America, Cox said.
The application to spend a semester abroad, which asks for a first and second choice program, includes a questionnaire and an essay, sophomore applicant Megan Winters said. The application is not difficult, Winters said, but it is a stressful process because some programs' admissions are competitive.
Winters said she had applied to Galway, Ireland, as her first choice and Edinburgh, Scotland, as her second choice because she wanted to reconnect with family in Ireland.
Until the 2001-2002 academic year, Cox said students had been studying abroad almost equally between both semesters. In 2001, the OIE received twice as many applications for the fall semester, she said.
Cox, who has been working with study abroad programs for 22 years, said she had a few ideas about the cause of the disparity: Greek recruitment and junior Ring Dance both took place in the spring, and student leadership positions often run on a calendar year, Cox said, so if a junior is not on campus in January, he or she cannot hold a position within an organization.
Murphy Shannon, a sophomore who applied to Vienna, Austria, chose to apply for the fall semester because she wanted to attend junior Ring Dance, she said. Shannon also said students wanted to keep with the trend and not miss a semester on campus with their friends.
Whichever time of year a student studies abroad, there are lasting benefits when they return. Confidence, Cox said, might be the biggest gain. Learning how to adapt and solve problems, along with the opportunity to take classes that Richmond might not offer are also among the benefits of studying abroad, Cox said.
"There is a lot of value in learning how other cultures approach problems," Cox said. "It's like putting on glasses with a different color lens, and all of a sudden, everything looks different."
Students are expected to learn the status of their applications by Feb. 26.
Contact staff writer Molly Gentzel at firstname.lastname@example.org