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Where are Americans choosing to study abroad?

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Europe has reigned as the top study abroad choice for American college students for a very long time.

When confident undergraduates decide to pursue a semester or two overseas, crossing the pond to the European continent is often the first choice. After all, there are around 300 colleges and universities offering more than 1,500 English-taught bachelor’s degrees, according to Beyond the States, an international college adviser.

But one continent is slowly gaining popularity among American students: Asia.

US students have not always been known to be the most adventurous bunch. Source: Shutterstock

Institute of International Education (IIE) data shows that Europe still takes the biggest share of the pie, with more than half (54.4 percent) of America’s international students in 2015-16 selecting this region as their second home.

That figure, however, is a significant drop in the popularity seen a little more than a decade ago, with 60.3 percent of American students choosing to study in Europe back in 2004-5.

Now, data shows that Asia is steadily attracting more US students than ever before, hosting just eight percent of American students in 2004/5 to 11.1 percent in 2015/16.

The number of American students heading to Latin America and elsewhere is also on the rise.

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So why is the average American student, long stereotyped for their lack of adventurousness, heading to study in a continent so far away and so vastly different from their own? The answer appears to be in the holy trifecta of factors seen to influence the study abroad decision-making process: Rankings, price and availability of English-taught programmes.

Over the last decade, new Asian universities have increasingly broken into top leagues of global university rankings. New institutions in China and South Korea, for example, have been ranked among the top 50 in the world, standing alongside more established universities in Japan and Singapore which have consistently ranked among the top in Asia and the world.

In Times Higher Education‘s World University Rankings, the National University of Singapore is ranked joint 22nd in the world with the University of Toronto, ahead of Carnegie Mellon University and the London School of Economics and Political Science.

As more of these Asian institutions offer English-taught courses, language barriers are slowly coming apart and students can gain their degree in arguably the most prevalent language in the business world while soaking up the benefits of Asia’s most cosmopolitan cities.

“Over the last couple of years, more South to East Asian countries have started offering world-class programmes in English, and attracting more international students,” Kimberly Dixit, founder of study-abroad consultancy, The Red Pen, said.

And with four years of college in America costing up to US$32,410, the prospect of earning an Asian degree for a fraction of the price is just the icing on the cake.

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