International study is an important part of equipping yourself to handle a career in an increasingly globally interdependent world. The number of students studying abroad has been growing every year. This is inevitable as the world becomes smaller and it is easier to get from one place to another.
The study abroad experience is no longer restricted to the typical “junior year abroad”. Not only are students considering full-time options but also looking at specialized programs, distance education or summer study programs that they can enrol at in a university abroad. Many people even go back to study while midway in their careers. New destinations have also opened up and it has become par for the course to consider study options in places like Asia and South America. Students are increasingly going to study in non-traditional destinations, and increasingly to non English-speaking countries.
For example, students pick countries like China and India for the educational experience as well as the cultural expansion that such countries offer. They are able to learn new languages and skills that would otherwise not be available to them. The world is truly getting flatter as Thomas Friedman has noted in his renowned book, and international study is a key component of this flattening.
Governments are also extending more encouragement and support to international students than ever before. In the US, for example, the Fulbright US Student Program, the Gilman Scholarships for undergraduates with financial need, and new National Security Language Initiative programs focused on language learning are just some of the well-known scholarships available.
According to the Open Doors report on international educational exchange 2006, the 20 most popular destinations for study abroad are United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, Australia, Mexico, Germany, China, Ireland, Costa Rica, Japan, Austria, New Zealand, Czech Republic, Greece, Chile, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, and India. Of these, only five are primarily English-speaking, and most are located outside Western Europe. The Open Doors report is published by the Institute of International Education, the leading not-for-profit educational and cultural exchange organization in the United States. While the report is reflective only of American students, it can be taken to be broadly indicative of the trend in other countries as well.
Open Doors 2006 data also reveals that the largest growth area is short-term study. This means that a majority of US students are electing summer study programs or other programs last for less than a semester. Summer study programs offer increased flexibility for those who are not able to make the kind of time commitment that a full time course would require.
The range of reasons why a particular international student might chose one destination country over another for study is quite wide and includes the perceived quality and reputation of the country’s education provision, its accessibility, affordability and the employability of the qualification obtained.
Countries are taking a keen interest in this area as a one of booming growth. Regular education fairs, national marketing strategies, easier immigration policies, an increase in programs in English and regional education hubs are some of the ways in which they are trying to lure the new generation of international students. These young people, for whom borders are meant to be crossed and ‘global citizen’ is more than a buzzword, are defining a new educational ethos across the world.