Ohio State ranked fifth nationally among doctoral institutions for the number of students that participate in study abroad programs. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor

Ohio State continues to expand its international footprint, ranking fifth nationally among doctoral institutions for the number of students that study abroad.

In total, the university had 2,886 students study abroad throughout the 2015-16 academic year, according to an annual survey published by the Institute of International Education. It also saw a 6.5 percent increase in student participation abroad from the previous year.

According to the survey, Ohio State also ranks first among Big Ten colleges.

Major contributors to the increase in student participation include the marching band’s trip to London and programs targeted toward first- and second-year students, such as the Second-Year Transformational Experience Program.

STEP is a fellowship program that offers up up $2,000 to second-year participants for their STEP signature project, which can range from written proposals on how they plan to use their funds to study abroad, work for an internship or pursue other service-learning endeavors.

The program offers about 60 study abroad opportunities during the month of May alone.

May, in particular, sees the highest number of study abroad trips offered since the month falls in between Ohio State’s semester schedule. Of the 2,886 students who studied abroad in 2015-16, close to 800 took advantage of the four-week programs in May, according to a recent Ohio State news release.

“May and summer programming provides students with an opportune moment in their college career to study abroad and gain international experience in their field of study or complete General Education requirements,” Gifty Ako-Adounvo, assistant vice provost for global strategies and international affairs, said in the release.

Cheikh Thiam, an associate professor of French and African and African-American studies, leads a four-week study abroad program in Senegal, a French-speaking country in West Africa.

Thiam said studying abroad is an important experience for college students.

Thiam added he saw the increase in studying abroad participants as an inevitable trend.

“One may think that closing borders and looking inward is a solution but you cannot stop the ocean with your own hands,” Thiam said. “It is just a fact that the world is opened and diversity is increasing and there’s no way of stopping that, so we better be ready for it and study abroad is one of the ways in which one can learn about that.”

He said bettering oneself as a citizen is an essential reason for many students to attend a university, and is a goal that can be fulfilled with experiences like studying abroad.

“What better way to do it than to go to a place that you would never imagine visiting ever before?,” he said.

“Not just going as tourists,” Thiam added. “But going with a critical mind, as students are ready to experience new things and to think critically about them.”

Hope Bobbitt, a second-year in strategic communication, went to Senegal as part of Thiam’s study abroad group this past summer.

Bobbitt said going to Africa made her look more critically at how Africa is portrayed in the western world.

“When you are in a Western country, no one really thinks about Africa that much unless you are thinking about some of the negative things,” Bobbitt said. “It was so impactful to see how the West has negatively influenced Africa but also seeing how African cultures have been able to rebuild themselves and bounce back after colonialism.”

Thiam said studying abroad helps students develop international mindsets that are  necessary for personal and professional growth under the increasingly globalized world.

“In that [increasingly globalized] world, people who cannot imagine diversity, who cannot imagine otherness, and people who are not ready to engage with those who are fundamentally different will be disadvantaged,” he said.