A response to our students regarding study abroad

Author: Rosemary Max

We thank Ms. Margritz and Ms. Hurson for their letter entitled “A call for transparency from Notre Dame International” which ran in last week’s Observer. We expect that the thoughts expressed in the letter are shared by students who were not accepted to a study abroad program for the upcoming academic year, and in this response we will address the concerns raised and let you know what we’re working on to make the application process a more positive experience.

We agree that there is room for improvement in the application process. This Observer letter is timely, as NDI had already been in discussions to redesign the application process for the 2017-18 school year. Two items under consideration are changing or eliminating the ranking system (first, second, third choice), and revamping how we use the waitlist to make it more effective. Currently, neither seem to serve the intended purpose, and this is underscored in Ms. Margritz and Ms. Hurson’s letter.

As international educators, we want every student who desires an experience abroad to have one. In the past two years, NDI has added 10 new semester programs and 13 new summer programs. We have instituted a petition program, where students can propose their own study abroad experience. In addition, we have developed three new programs for incoming freshmen who go abroad before beginning their studies at Notre Dame.

This increase in the number of opportunities has resulted in not only a rise in the total number of students studying abroad, but also in the number of applicants. In spite of the higher demand, you’ll see in the table below that we have been able to increase the number of students accepted this year for both semester and summer study abroad. While this is good progress in a short amount of time, we realize that more needs to be done to meet student demand for our programs. We hope, in the coming year, to open up additional options in Latin America, Ireland, and Australia, among other places.




Semester % of
applicants accepted


Semester number
of participants


Summer % of
applicants accepted


Summer number
of participants


























We are confident that this new programming will help us fill the demand for study abroad, but we also expect that our programs in the United Kingdom, Dublin, and Australia will remain extremely competitive for students. We do our best to make students aware of the high number of applicants for these programs so they explore what else we have to offer.

For example, in preparation for this year’s round of applications, NDI encouraged all students via email in November to look beyond traditional destinations and consider other parts of the world, specifically those that their peers at other universities are accessing at a much higher rate. In that email, we proposed a new program in Beijing and highlighted the excellent program at Notre Dame’s Global Gateway in Jerusalem. We received three applications for the Beijing program (which no students ultimately accepted) and 15 applications for the Jerusalem program (eight of whom chose this option).

NDI always seeks to provide opportunities for students at any language level. Our goal is to make programs as accessible as possible. While many of our programs do not require any language skills, many others only require one or two semesters of a particular language to be eligible. Chinese and Arabic are two of the six official UN languages, and Asia and the Middle East are regions that are critical to our globe.

Finally, we recognize that part of the frustration around the application process for study abroad—well-articulated in the Observer letter—is the lack of transparency students feel as the process unfolds. We met with Ms. Margritz and Ms. Hurson yesterday and had a good discussion, and we welcome all student feedback on these issues. Please feel free to submit your comments, concerns, and suggestions through this form. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas.

Rosemary Max                                                    Kathleen Opel
Director of International Programs                      Director of Study Abroad