The Institute of International Education releases data in a publication called the Open Doors report. It has data about both outbound students (US students studying abroad) and inbound students (international students coming to the US). The 2016 report was released earlier in this month and I wanted to share my thoughts on it. The Open Doors report is one of the most important pieces of research in the field of international education. So, it is imperative as both student affairs practitioners and international educators that we understand what global student mobility looks like.
Snapshot of Students Studying Abroad
According the Fast Facts sheet, in the 2014/2015 year, only 1.6% of US students studied abroad in a foreign country during their time as undergraduates. Unfortunately, this number has rarely changed. But it is one statistic that continually shocks me because it means means very little people have gone outside the country. (But then again, only roughly 35% of Americans hold passports.) The five most popular countries for US to study abroad are the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and China. The top five majors to study abroad are in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), Business, Social Sciences, Foreign Languages and International Studies and Fine and Applied Arts.
Personally, I was surprised to see STEM field listed as number one since it seems to be the hardest academic discipline to get to study abroad (at least from my understanding). So how long do US students abroad for? Overwhelmingly (63%) it is short term (ie summer, eight weeks or less). This makes sense that this would be the case since it seems to be most feasible for students to do (financially, etc). Lastly, another piece of data to highlight is that 73% of people that studied abroad are white. The other minority groups’ numbers are extremely low (all single digits). I know within international education that there are wonderful initiatives to increase diversity abroad in all its forms. For example, there is the Diversity Abroad Network and Abroad with Disabilities.
Overall, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to encourage US students to go abroad, especially those in minority groups. Considering that our world is increasingly smaller, any sort of international experience seems necessary to have in this day and age. Although, there are myths about study abroad that continue to persist and prevent students from travelling.
We Are International: Foreign Students in the US
Where are international students coming from? The top five countries that students are from are China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Canada. Personally, the most fascinating country on the list is China. Historically, China closed itself off from outside influence until recently. Interestingly, there has been fierce competition to get into a good US university for Chinese students as well as heavy recruitment efforts to get them here. Quite a big business has popped up because of these efforts.
Top US states hosting foreign students
- New York
The institution hosting the most international students is New York University with a whopping 15, 543 students.
Top five fields of study for foreign students
- Business and Management
- Math and Computer Science
- Social Sciences
- Physical and Life Sciences.
Lastly, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of international students on college campuses, especially now.
They provide immense social benefits because domestic students have a chance to meet someone who is different from them and learn about other ways of life. Not only that, they provide economic benefits to both their institution and their state. (Check out NAFSA’s International Student Economic Value Tool to see for yourself.) If you are interested in looking more into student mobility in general, check out this interactive map from UNESCO.
International education is constantly changing. But the Open Door report provides us with a glimpse of what it looks like and where we can improve within niche areas. (These areas include international student services, study abroad, etc.) It also reminds us that that work that we do is necessary.