Brief Background: Study abroad is one of the best
ways students can acquire the global skills and experiences that
colleges are looking for in their applicants and that employers are
increasingly looking for in their workers. By studying abroad, students
experience new perspectives, learn how to work with diverse peers, and
can immerse themselves in learning other languages.
Each year more than a quarter million American students pursue
short-term study abroad while enrolled as undergraduates at a US
postsecondary institution. The programs they participate in take many
forms—including studying, interning, or volunteering abroad—and range
from a week to a full academic year. Studying abroad for a shorter term
during college or high school can be a good option for students who show
an interest in studying internationally, but who are not certain they
want to commit to a full undergraduate degree program outside the US.
The US government recognizes the need for more American students to
have meaningful study abroad experiences, to better prepare them for
21st century jobs and global challenges. The US Study Abroad Office, a
US State Department-supported initiative, was launched in 2015 with a
goal of increasing and diversifying student participation in study
abroad. The office manages the Benjamin Gilman and Critical Language
Scholarship Programs, helps build institutional supports through the
administration of capacity-building grants and workshops, and advocates
for study abroad. The government-supported website provides information on US and foreign government resources in support of study abroad.
Good to Know: Study abroad for academic credit has increased by 17 percent over the last five years, according to IIE’s Open Doors data.
Moreover, the racial and ethnic diversity of students studying abroad
has increased over the past decade. The top 10 destinations for US
students studying abroad are: United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France,
Germany, China, Ireland, Australia, Costa Rica, and Japan.
Search: The Department of State, the Department of
Education, and the Department of Defense fund a number of programs that
enable K-12 and university students to conduct research, work, or study
abroad. A list of these programs can be found through State Department’s US Study Abroad website.
Apply: Given the great and growing diversity of
study abroad programs, application and visa deadlines vary. Students
should be familiar with the requirements of the program to which they
are applying as some require specific applications, supporting
documents, testing, and/or essays.
Cost: Efforts are underway to make study abroad more
accessible and affordable for anyone wanting to take advantage of this
important educational experience. Many of the US government study abroad
programs are fully or partially funded. Students can also use federal
financial aid to fund their studies abroad. Find out more about how federal student aid can help students pay for their international study experience.
Advice from the Field: Encouraging exchange students
at your school to share their culture and their experiences as
international students can make the thought of studying abroad less
daunting and more appealing for American students.
Country and Regional Profiles
from the US Study Abroad Office provide an overview of the academic
systems in each country and resources available for students interested
in studying in those countries.
Encourage students to inquire about undergraduate study abroad
options when college and university representatives visit your school.
At many institutions, offices are dedicated to helping students pursue
study abroad options, including government-supported programs.
Generation Study Abroad is an initiative of the Institute of
International Education (IIE), a nonprofit organization dedicated to
advancing access to education worldwide. Launched in 2014, the
initiative aims to mobilize resources and commitments with the goal of
doubling and diversifying the number of US students studying abroad by
the end of the decade.
NACAC is one of more than 800 partners that have joined Generation Study Abroad to promote these ambitious goals.
Learn more and join the conversation on the IIE website.