BYU named university with most students abroad

A late report from Open Doors placed BYU in first for university in the U.S. with the most students studying abroad. Vanessa Wilson and her friends are visiting one of Mexico’s many ruins in their study abroad of this last summer. (Photo courtesy of Vanessa Wilson)

BYU has been ranked the U.S. university with the most students abroad by this year’s Open Doors report.

The report shared the university had 2,878 students studying abroad in the 2021-2022 academic year. The runner-ups were University of Texas at Austin and New York University.

BYU has been able to recover quickly from the pandemic, which has led them to take the top spot in the number of students studying abroad, said Lynn Elliott, director of BYU’s International Study Programs office.

“We were able to get more international programs up and running after the pandemic faster than other U.S. universities,” he said. “We have a strong campus support for our efforts and a highly trained, hardworking staff.” 

There was also a strong demand for getting study abroad programs back up from students and faculty, Elliott said.

In the 2023-2024 school year, BYU offers more than 200 programs for students to participate in international experiences.

“BYU is unique in the quality of its students but also its faculty,” he said. “We are blessed to have so many faculty who want to lead students abroad.”

Sophomore Vanessa Wilson said she loved her study abroad because of the connection she was able to have with her own culture.

Her study abroad took place in Merida, Mexico during the summer term of 2023. She said the program offered classes for the Spanish major and minor.

“I felt I could be more immersed in my culture if I was there living in Mexico, learning the language, meeting people who grew up there and getting to hear their story and their perspective,” she said.

Wilson’s parents are Mexican, and her grandparents are from Mexico, she said.

The study abroad consisted of learning Spanish in a university in the city, service activities, Family Home Evening and touring the area, Wilson explained.

The group also went to the beach, recitals or other performances, museums, ruins and other sites, and they went downtown, she said.

“I really liked staying with the host mom,” Wilson said. “Host families, that was my favorite part.”

Junior Brooke Harris said she enjoyed her time at BYU’s London Centre in their Winter 2023 program.

One of the reasons she chose to go on a study abroad was because, since she has a minor in art history, she wanted to see some of her “favorite works and shows in person,” Harris said.

Harris said her other motivations were to develop “lifelong skills” and create “lifelong memories.”

“I chose London because I thought the program’s focus on curiosity and experiences was exactly what I was looking for,” she said.

Harris also wanted the experience to see if London was a place she would want to end up living long-term, she said. When she heard about BYU study abroad’s top ranking, she said she appreciated how the university organizes its programs abroad.

“I never felt unsafe or frustrated about plans or arrangements for housing and transportation,” Harris said. “The professors were always empathetic and loving, and their mentorship made us into a family.”

Elliott’s perspective highlighted the students who participate in these programs.

“The most remarkable thing I see about leading BYU students abroad is that they carry a unique spirit with them, and it is not uncommon for strangers to recognize this,” he said. “I have often heard statements like ‘These students are remarkable,’ or ‘There is something different about your students.’”

Studying abroad is “life-changing,” Harris said.

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