Less than 10 percent of United States students study abroad, and an education institute is striving to increase that number.
By 2019, the Institute of International Education (IIE) plans on having the number of U.S. students studying abroad to be 600,000. The current number of American students studying abroad is approximately 280,000.
Lynn Elliot, the director at BYU’s International Study Programs, shares the excitement of having an increase in U.S. students studying abroad.
“My bias is always to say, ‘Go on a study abroad,'” Elliot said. “The world is becoming more intertwined, and having an understanding of foreign cultures is a valuable tool these days.”
One of the IIE’s strategies to increase international study abroads is to team up with universities and work with study abroad programs that already exist. Although BYU has not officially pledged to be a part of the IIE’s push, Elliot said BYU supports all that the program is doing.
Private colleges tend to send more students on international study abroads than public colleges, according to IIE. By simply doubling the number of students studying abroad at public colleges, an additional 270,000 students would be studying abroad.
IIE stated that the number of “medium-size” study abroad programs throughout the country send out approximately 100–499 students annually to international study abroads. BYU’s number is impressively larger. Elliot stated that last year alone, his program sent out 1,400 students internationally.
The increase in the number of students studying abroad not only affects the youth, but the U.S. as well.
“If more Americans participate in a study abroad, it can help position them better for international competitions and to hopefully have a better understanding of other cultures,” Elliot said.
Kaitlin Fayles, a BYU dance major, participated in a study abroad this last summer in China and stated how studying abroad had benefitted her life.
“Those six weeks changed my life greatly,” Fayles said. “Being on the other side of the world, in a place where I didn’t speak the language and where I didn’t have the opportunity to attend regular sacrament meetings allowed me to understand myself better, as well as deepen my testimony of Jesus Christ.”
Fayles is finishing up her second semester of Chinese since her study abroad and is making plans to go back to China to visit the friends and contacts she made while there.
“My eyes were opened to a part of the world, and I would not trade my experiences for anything,” Fayles said. “I definitely recommend going on a study abroad. It can be tough to find funding, but for me, it was so worth it.”
Participating in a study abroad is not that much more expensive than studying in Provo for a semester. BYU students can use any financial aid they are receiving for their schooling to apply for study abroads.
Students interested in participating in an international study abroad can visit kennedy.byu.edu/isp or stop by BYU’s international study abroad office in 101 HRCB.