Which Asian countries are US students studying abroad at?

A total of 38,408 Americans studied abroad for academic credit in Asia, representing 11.2 percent of total US student cohort abroad (341,751) in the academic year 2017/18, according to the latest data published by the Institute of International Education.

China hosted the highest number of US students, followed by Japan and India at second and third places respectively. South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia rounded up the top 10 most popular Asian countries among US students. Compared to two decades ago, the number of US students abroad has nearly tripled.

Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs said, “International exchange makes our colleges and universities more dynamic for all students and an education at a US institution can have a transformative effect for international students, just like study abroad experiences can for US students.”

IIE President and CEO Allan Goodman said, “The record number of international students in the US and US students studying abroad means that more students than ever before are being exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking.  They will have greater ability to succeed in and contribute to an increasingly complex and interconnected world.”

Although the region has seen an increase of 33 percent in the number of US students enrolled in short-term, medium-term and long-term programmes, all of the top three Asian countries saw a decline in the number of US students in their country in 2017/18.

There were 11,613 US students in China, a decline of 2.5 percent from the previous year, despite the country’s steady rise in global education rankings. Japan and India, with 8,467 and 3,986 US students respectively, each showed a decrease of 1.2 percent and 1.8 percent respectively.

Overall, there was a 0.6 percent decrease in the number of US students studying abroad in the region.

The five least popular destinations in Asia are Kuwait, Syria, Yemen, Brunei and Turkmenistan – there were no US students in these countries at all.

Unsurprisingly, the top 10 most popular Asian countries among US students is dominated by the wealthier East Asian nations, which hosted 11,613 (nearly one-third of all US students in Asia), again revealing it is rich countries which have the financial clout to attract and retain top talent.

While China remained the largest source of international students in the US in 2018/19, the converse isn’t the case. The top five destinations for US students going abroad are all in Europe: UK, Italy, Spain, Germany and Ireland – making up for more than half of the US student population abroad, an increase of 27 percent since a decade ago.

The data also showed that females overwhelmingly take part in study abroad programmes more than their male peers – around two-thirds (67 percent) of all students studying abroad were women, an increase of around two percent since a decade ago.

The type of programmes undertaken by this group of students are disproportionately skewed too. Only 2.3 percent study abroad for a full academic or calendar year. One-third (33.1 percent) are on mid-length programmes (which lats a quarter or a semester) while the majority (64.6 percent) are in short-term programmes such as summer programmes or others lasting eight weeks or fewer.

The two most popular subjects of all students studying abroad are: STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) representing 25.6 percent, followed by business (20.8 percent).

While the gender, programme type, subject and destination of these study abroad participants remain unevenly distributed, there has been an improvement on the racial and ethnic diversity front. Over the past decade, the racial and ethnic distribution of US students going abroad has increased from 18 percent to 30 percent.

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