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More US Students Need to Study Abroad, Says Higher Ed Group


U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stands with students during his visit to Lycee de Petion-Ville high school in Petion-Ville, Haiti, Nov. 5, 2013.
By a 3-to-1 margin, international students studying in the United States versus U.S. students studying abroad. That imbalance, according to an organization that fosters student exchanges, threatens American students from developing global awareness.

In announcing it “Generation Study Abroad” initiative this week, the New York-based Institute of International Education (IIE) hopes to double the number of U.S. students studying abroad in the next five years.

Comparing the more than 800,000 international students in the United States with the approximately 283,000 Americans studying abroad, the IIIE’s Daniel Obst calls the difference “a fairly large trade imbalance.” Obst, the IIE’s Deputy Vice President for International Partnerships, said less than 10-percent of U.S. students choose foreign study.

Top Destinations for U.S. Study Abroad, 2011-12
Rank Destination 2011-12
% of Total
% Change from
World total 283,332 100.0 3.4
1 UK 34,660 12.2 4.5
2 Italy 29,645 10.5 -2.4
3 Spain 26,480 9.3 2.0
4 France 17,168 6.1 0.9
5 China 14,887 5.3 2.0
6 Germany 9,370 3.3 3.9
7 Australia 9,324 3.3 -4.2
8 Costa Rica 7,900 2.8 9.3
9 Ireland 7,640 2.7 9.0
10 Japan 5,283 1.9 27.8
Open Doors report on International Education Exchange
Retrieved from

There are many reasons for the lower number of Americans going abroad to study. But Obst says among the most common fears revolve around costs, concerns that foreign curricula won’t fit their academic needs, and the notion that studying abroad is a waste of time. “In many cases, those are myths, so our campaign seeks to dispel some of those myths,” said Obst.

To reach its goal, IIE’s “Generation Study Abroad” will focus on recruiting more low-income students and others who have not participated in high numbers.
In a press release accompanying the launch of the new initiative, IIE calls the number and proportion of today’s students who graduate with an educational experience abroad “far too low.

“It is clear that major segments of America’s young people are not getting the international experience they will need to advance their careers and participate in the global economy, or to work together across borders to address global issues,” the release said.