By Caroline Thompson, Contributor
Many students were surprised to receive an email from the Rinker Center for Study Away and International Education Mon., Nov. 2, only one day after the deadline to apply to study away May Experience (May Ex) programs. They were not expecting to receive any correspondence from the Rinker Center for Study Away and International Education until closer to the decision date. They were even more surprised to find that the email was informing them over 500 May Ex study away applications were submitted for only 263 available spots.
In total, 348 students applied to at least one May Ex study away program, the two most popular programs being the “Land and Religion in the Holy Lands” and “Botswana Paradox” programs, according to Nancy Georgiev, Assistant Director for Study Away and International Education.
Within the United States, similar short-term programs have been blossoming because of the ideal timing right after the school year. Furman’s May Ex study away program began in 2009, with only six programs and 64 participants. Since then, student interest and the number of study away programs have grown every year. The 2016 May Ex study away program has seen the highest number of applications so far. When asked about the contributing causes of the increase in applications in past years, Georgiev cites leadership opportunities for students, ideal timing for faculty, and simply not wanting to miss out on the incredible experiences offered.
Though the number of applications is staggering this year, Georgiev actually states that this growth rate “has been the standard for the last three years,” and the number of applicants has been “[filling] to capacity.”
Although there are no plans to conduct the application process any differently this year than in recent years, the study away office has possibilities in mind for controlling the excessive amount of applications submitted for future May Experiences, if this growth rate continues.
The number of programs outside of the U.S. in which a student can participate could be limited to one application per student. This would not apply to semester-long study away courses in order for more students opportunities to participate in May Ex programs generally. But before the study away office considers this option, Georgiev says that it may first limit the number of applications students are allowed to submit. By limiting the applications to two or three, students will have to narrow down and commit to only May Ex programs about which they are truly passionate. Some faculty members agree with this idea as well, since over 50 students applied to more than two May Ex programs.
Currently, though, these are only ideas that may be implemented in the future if the growth rate continues. Georgiev states that the study away office currently has no plans to put these ideas into action. Even if they decide not to explore either of these options further, Georgiev says that the study away office will still aim to make these May Ex Programs as “diverse and inclusive of students” as possible, so more students can participate in and learn from these programs.