More study abroad participants outside the kinds of majors that typically spend time overseas are going to places like Asia, Africa and Latin America, according to recent data from the Institute of International Education, with less growth in European countries that have traditionally been considered study abroad staples.
While Britain is still the most popular study abroad destination, the number of program participants there grew by only 2 percent over the last year, compared to 19 percent in China, nearly 20 percent in India, and 18 percent to countries in Africa, such as Ghana. An article in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week describes possible reasons for the trend. College students could be looking toward the future and are intrigued by technological advances in countries like India, as many of the new study abroad participants come from majors outside the usual liberal arts programs. (The number of math and science majors studying abroad increased by about 17 percent.) And signing up for a program in a developing country will cost a lot less than spending a semester in Western Europe.
Last year was a record year for study abroad programs, with more than 260,000 American students participating in programs across the world, an increase of about 8.5 percent over the year before. Why the increase? Looking at the kinds of programs that have seen increases could lead to some explanation. Study abroad programs in the health sciences increased by about 19 percent. At home, more undergraduates are interested in focusing on public health issues, which lends itself easily to study abroad programs. And economic problems in the United States have affected the global economies, making it less expensive to travel to many destinations.
The number of foreign students coming to study in the United States has also increased by about 8 percent over the last year, according to the Institute. The number of first-time international students rose even more, by about 16 percent. The increases were most apparent among undergraduate students, which is somewhat surprising as international students have traditionally come to study here for graduate programs.
If you're interested in studying abroad, don't assume you'll need to pay for a program out of pocket or increase your student loan debt. There are study abroad scholarships available to help you cover those expenses, especially if you’ve shown that you have significant financial need.