Of the 347,099 students attending courses overseas, some 193,000 enrolled on courses across Europe – as the continent continued to attract the biggest cohort of US students.

“American students are powerful ambassadors for our nation”

According to the IIE Open Doors report, the number indicates “strong interest in study abroad programs prior to the Covid-19 pandemic”.

“We’re proud to see Americans studying abroad in greater numbers than ever before,” said Marie Royce, assistant secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs.

“American students are powerful ambassadors for our nation and study abroad often provides the foundation for future careers as successful diplomats, innovators, educators, and entrepreneurs.”

Additionally, the report indicated that 31% of the students studying overseas in 2018/19 identified as racial or ethnic minorities, which – despite an improvement from the 15% representation 20 years ago – remains below the 45% minority participation in US higher education today.

“International educational experiences provide young Americans with the critical skills and knowledge necessary to compete in a global society,” said director of the Office of Global Educational Programs at the US Department of State, Anthony Koliha.

“The State Department remains committed to supporting more Americans and studying abroad, gaining critical intercultural skills and learning foreign languages.”

In addition to privately supported study abroad program, and State Department exchanges including the Fulbright program and the Benjamin A. Gilman program, in October Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a website to “highlight the value of foreign language skills and to provide American students with an easy way to search U.S. government resources and find the best opportunity for foreign language study”, Koliha added.

The overall increase in US students enrolling in courses overseas is a “similar and positive trend that we have seen in recent years“, IIE’s head of Research, Evaluation & Learning Mirka Martel noted.

European destination “continue to have the largest share of study abroad”, she noted with Italy, Greece and France showing strong growth in 2018/19.

The 5.7% increase of students choosing Italy edged the destination closer to the UK at number one. In 2018/19, Italy hosted 39,043, while the UK welcomed 39,358.

Third placed overall was Spain (33,849), followed by France (18,465) and Germany (12,029).

In Asia, South Korea and Japan drove a 6% overall growth in the region, while China – the most popular destination in Asia – remained flat with 11,639 students.

Latin America saw a 6% decline in 2018/19, with  Costa Rica and Ecuador witnessing a 4% and 4.9% fall, respectively.

“A further 38,000 US students studied abroad on non-credit experiential activities such as work, internships, volunteering and research abroad,” Martel noted.

The Open Doors 2020 report also found that in 2019/20 international student numbers in the US fell by 1.8%, despite being the fifth year consecutive year its institutions hosted more than one million international students.

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