Less than 1% of American students study abroad each year
The History of Studying Abroad
Chapter 3 of Study Abroad's Exciting History ended with the collapse of the USSR and the subsequent raising of the iron curtain. The following two decades saw an incredible increase in exchange programs between American universities and those of other countries. Because of advancing technology, infrastructure, and communication, the tourism sector boomed. This improved accessibility to travel gave the study abroad industry just the kick it needed, and the entire American academic community wanted to take part!
University boards saw an opportunity not only to send students, but also faculty, abroad, thus increasing university connections and creating a solid basis for full-scale and rapid development. Though exchanges had existed on a relatively small scale, the increased connections led to the institutionalization of partnerships, and the field grew into a more polished and refined industry.
In earlier years, study abroad programs largely focused on second language learning and the documentation of all contemporary studies. As programs matured and expanded, however, they became increasingly rigorous and sophisticated. In the 1990s and 2000s, programs moved away from one-dimensional course offerings to instead a comprehensive review of all relative impact variables on learning, including the duration and the housing options for the programs. Beyond second language acquisition, programs now emphasized intercultural competence, global awareness, academic discipline, and professional skills. Factors that were at one time not deemed important were now documented and considered when determining a programs' success.
The US government continued to show support for international education by increasing the number of opportunities available to students for overseas study. In response to criticisms that study abroad only benefits certain types of students, the Department of State created the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship program as part of the International Opportunity Act of 2000. This program awards undergraduate Federal Pell Grant recipients, and aims to diversify both the kind of students who study abroad as well as the countries and regions they visit.
Another exciting development following the turn of the century was the initiation of "International Education Week." Held annually the week before Thanksgiving, this event specifically promotes the benefits of global exchange, not only as a physical crossing of borders, but also as mental preparation for thinking globally in local situations.
International Education Week is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education is part of our efforts to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences in the United States.
This week is now celebrated in over 100 countries and continues to grow and expand across the globe. Don't forget to partake this upcoming fall on your university campus!
Study abroad: bridging cultures and languages.
The 2007 Economic Crash
The economic downturn that hit the United States in the late 2000s hurt the study abroad industry, and the 2008/2009 academic year saw a decrease in the number of students going overseas. However, the industry recovered quickly - while 260,327 students studied abroad for academic credit in 2008/2009, 270,604 studied did the following year. Regardless, this still only represents approximately 1% of all enrolled American students. These outgoing students stayed for one or two academic terms, compared to the 690,923 foreign students pursuing full degree programs in the USA that same year. Currently, 77% of American universities do not require students to take a foreign language course to earn a Bachelors degree. Only one American university, Goucher College requires a study abroad experience of every undergraduate as a condition of graduation.
As you can see, though great strides and improvements have been made in the field of international education over the past 100 years, there remains a great need for improvement. Exchanges are critical to the development of mutual understanding and respect between countries, cultivating an appreciation and respect for the US itself. If America wants to invest in the future, build leadership overseas, and foster global mindedness organically, studying abroad and other academic-oriented international exchanges must be made a priority.
No matter how we define it in our local contexts, we share the belief and commitment that young people have a right to and a need for international learning - and so do the societies in which they live. In a world that is evermore inter-connected and which faces challenges of heightened global relevance, we can't afford to let our young people and our societies move into the future without understanding that we are all in this together. - International Alliance