By Tara Schafer

In the last three years, study abroad participants increased by nearly 25 percent, reaching up to 620 students in the last academic year.

Korey Force, the study abroad outreach coordinator, attributes this sudden increase to the position she took as outreach coordinator in 2015.1478616109

20161107_090505“We’re going out and seeking outreach to do,” said Force.

Before the position of outreach coordinator had been created, students had to come to the study abroad office to receive information about studying abroad.

Another reason for more participation in study abroad, according to Force, is the greater interest in short-term, faculty-led programs and short-term programs that target specific groups, such as Kalamazoo Promise students.

“The more students are exposed to study abroad, the more likely they are to do it,” said Force.

In order to generate more interest in studying abroad, Western Michigan University is now offering a competitive scholarship for incoming freshman.

One hundred high school seniors will compete on Friday for a paid study abroad trip to the Dominican Republic and either $3,000 for a short-term trip or $10,000 for a long-term trip. All 100 students competing will receive $1,000.

The first part of the scholarship event will include a competition similar to the NBC show “The Amazing Race.” After the competition portion, the students will write an essay. Fifteen winners will be chosen.

This competition is part of the outreach efforts designed to generate greater interest in studying abroad.

The biggest reason students tell themselves they can’t study abroad, according to Force, is lack of funds. According to the Study Abroad office, $400,000 was given away in scholarships in 2014-2015. This year, that number increased by $40,000 and continues to increase due to private donations.

The other top three reasons that students give for not studying abroad are the duration of the trip, concern about not knowing a foreign language, and concern about the program fitting into his or her major.

These concerns are usually allayed when a student talks to another student or professor, according to Force.

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