Princeton is developing a new semester-long faculty-led program in Athens in the spring of 2024.
Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via AP

Princeton has witnessed a sharp increase in applications for Global Seminars this year, with the number of applicants almost doubling. The spike in interest is seen as a post-pandemic correction, as students are eagerly seeking international experiences after being confined for two years. 

“We usually have maybe 25-30 applicants for 15 spots, and this year, we had almost 60 applicants for 15 spots,” said Rubén Gallo, a professor of Latin American literature at Princeton. Gallo teaches a Global Seminar course about Vienna’s culture and history in the Austrian city. 

Gallo said he believes the surge is indicative of a broader trend of people embracing travel. 

“The University has had trouble getting students to go abroad,” Gallo said. “Now, it looks like it’s a correction, and Princeton students are realizing how important it is to have an international experience and to go abroad.”

Compared to last summer, applications for this summer’s faculty-led programs have risen by roughly 35%, while applications for non-Princeton summer programs are up by 10%, according to data provided by the Office of International Programs. Applications for fall programs have also seen a roughly 20% increase relative to fall 2022. 

The International Internship Program (IIP) has also grown in popularity. This summer, almost 300 students have chosen to pursue an IIP internship, a 53% jump compared to the IIP cohort last summer, according to statistics from the Office of International Programs.

Applications for fellowships have remained consistent over the past few years, and Princeton ranked high among doctoral institutions for the “Top Producers of Fulbright U.S. Students,” published by The Chronicle of Higher Education, in the 2022-2023 fellowship award cycle.

“We’ve been really excited not just for the number of applications for Fulbright, but also how many of our students have been successful in securing them because they’re very competitive,” said Rebecca Graves-Bayazitoglu, senior associate dean in the Office of International Programs. “Their time at Princeton has been marked by COVID and by a lack of opportunities.”

The surge in interest is evident in the number of students participating in study-abroad programs, which have returned to pre-pandemic levels. Moreover, Bridge Year has expanded to two new locations, Cambodia and Costa Rica, which increases the number of students abroad.

Despite the growing interest in studying abroad, Graves-Bayazitoglu clarified that most students are still interested in summer, not semester abroad programs. Given remote schooling during COVID, students want to spend time on campus and get settled in, without having to think about transitioning to a new country for a whole semester. 

To cater to students’ diverse interests and accommodate those who have not chosen a specific academic path yet, Princeton is developing a new semester-long faculty-led program in Athens in the spring of 2024. Targeted to sophomores and juniors studying humanities programs like Hellenic studies and philosophy, students will take a class in the Greek language, two offerings from College Year in Athens, and a Princeton seminar with Professor Michael Cadden named Writing Athens.

“The goal there is to provide these opportunities for students early in their careers because our impression is that when students do things early in their career, they become very excited about the opportunity to do more things, so it creates more demand,” Graves-Bayazitoglu said. 

The University’s study abroad fair, held in person last September for the first time since COVID, attracted a significant number of students. 

“Just by the number of students that attended, it really demonstrated this pent-up excitement of students interested to look at what’s out there and what is possible for me,” said Michelle Tong, communications manager in the Office of International Programs. 

Other events like information sessions have also seen a rise in attendance. Students from diverse backgrounds are applying; some have prior travel experience, while others are embarking on their first international journey. 

Students are not “just going abroad for the sake of going abroad,” Tong said, and the Office of International Programs advisers want to “make sure that the program and location they are looking at is a good fit for the program and match for their aspirations and goals, whether personal or professional.”