US students abroad

The Institute of International Education has released its 2005 “Open Doors” report on U.S. students studying abroad.

The top twenty destinations for study abroad by U.S. students during the 2003-04 school year were, in declining order, Britain, Italy, Spain, France, Australia, Mexico, Germany, Ireland, China, Costa Rica, Japan, Austria, New Zealand, Cuba, Chile, Greece, the Czech Republic, South Africa, Russia, and the Netherlands.

Britain was by far the leader, with 32,237 U.S. students. China was ninth, with 4,737.

Fear of SARS resulted in numbers for parts of East Asia dropping off for the spring and summer of 2003, so the 90 percent increase for China is not so much a dramatic increase as a return to pre-crisis levels.

In 2003/04, overall U.S. study abroad in Asia (13,213) increased by 36%, with American student numbers in China exceeding pre-SARS levels (4,737, up 90%), and increases in students going to Japan, (3,707, up 7%), Korea (879, up 19%), Hong Kong (487, up 6%), and Taiwan (195, up 32%). However, even with all of these increases, only 7% of all Americans studying abroad selected Asia for their overseas academic experience.

I don’t know how those numbers are reached. Taiwan certainly has more than 192 Americans studying here. Perhaps the figures are related to official university-level study-abroad programs.

Nonetheless, the figures do represent an increase, especially for places such as China, where many are studying Mandarin. Indeed, being in an environment where the target language is spoken is especially important, given how many Mandarin-learning programs (in both the West and Asia) are badly imbalanced toward memorizing Chinese characters rather than learning the language itself. So environment is especially important for those wishing to learn Mandarin.

For what it’s worth, I’ve lived in both China and Taiwan, and I recommend Taiwan.

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