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BYU receives top rankings for U.S. students studying abroad

The Institute of International Education released its annual Open Doors report on U.S. students studying abroad, ranking Brigham Young University in the top 10 schools (No. 9) for short-term study abroad and in the top 20 schools (No. 16) sending the most students abroad.

These students studied in more than 130 programs in 60 countries, including those students studying at the Jerusalem Center and those traveling internationally with BYU’s performing groups.

While many BYU students come from colleges in the university that are traditionally strong in study abroad, such as humanities, BYU is somewhat unique in that each of its 12 colleges sends students on academic programs abroad.

“It is not uncommon for a college to send many social science or humanities students abroad, but in addition to these, BYU has strong international programs for such disciplines as nursing, law and engineering,” said Lynn Elliott, director of BYU’s International Study Programs. “This breadth of interest in international topics across the university is a unique feature of BYU and a true blessing to its students.”

The top 10 short-term programs were advanced by Michigan State University, University of Georgia, University of Texas at Austin, University of Delaware, UCLA, Penn State, George Mason University, Arizona State University, BYU and University of Minnesota.

The top 20 schools in total numbers of study-abroad students were New York University, Michigan State University, University of Texas at Austin, Penn State, University of Illinois,University of Minnesota, UCLA, University of Florida, University of Georgia, Ohio State University, Florida State University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Washington, University of Virginia, BYU, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Indiana University, University of Arizona and University of Delaware.

For more information on International Study Programs at BYU, see the Web site at or visit 280 HRCB.

The Open Doors Report:

Eager to learn about different countries and cultures and to acquire global skills, U.S. students are studying abroad in record numbers, according to survey data released this month. Study abroad increased by 8.5 percent to a total of 223,534 students in 2005-2006, according to the Open Doors report, published annually by the Institute of International Education with funding from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The number of American students receiving academic credit for their study abroad has increased 150 percent in the past decade, from fewer than 90,000 students in 1995-1996.

These increased numbers reflect a growing recognition by students and educators that an international experience is important to students' future careers. While recent growth has been fueled in part by programs that offer study for shorter lengths of time than the traditional academic year, there has also been an increasing interest in studying in more diverse destinations. (For additional statistics and analysis from Open Doors 2007, see

According to Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes, "A wide range of successful activities sponsored by the U.S. Department of State help U.S. students to gain access to a substantive international experience. These include the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Gilman Scholarships for undergraduates, and new National Security Language Initiative programs focused on language learning. The Gilman Scholarship program in particular is a point of pride; by reaching out to students of more modest means, it has produced truly remarkable gains in the numbers of U.S. citizens from minority communities who now can aspire to the life-changing experience of study abroad."

Allan E. Goodman, president and CEO of the Institute of International Education, said that language and cultural skills are increasingly valued by employers and vital to America's national interest. “Students should get a passport along with their student ID,” he said, “and they should use it to study abroad at least once during their academic careers.” Despite the steadily rising numbers, the vast majority of U.S. students still graduate without any study abroad experience. Goodman noted that “the opportunity for more young Americans to study abroad is a goal shared by the President, the Secretary of State, and leaders in Congress, industry and academia.”

Under Secretary Hughes noted that NSLI intensive language study scholarships provided by the Department of State for U.S. undergraduate and graduate students “show America's respect for other cultures, a cornerstone of our public diplomacy efforts, while demonstrating our commitment to building language skills for our citizens.”

The increases reported in Open Doors 2007 reflect a growing interest in non-traditional destinations — students going to Asia (up 26 percent), Latin America (up 14 percent), Africa (up 19 percent) and the Middle East (up 31 percent) — and a wider range of study abroad opportunities in addition to the extremely valuable semester and academic year programs. Semester study now attracts 37 percent of those students studying abroad, while slightly more than half (52 percent) of U.S. students elect short-term programs (including summer, January term and any program of less than 8 weeks) and only 5.5 percent spend a full academic or calendar year abroad. While brief sojourns and short-term programs expand the numbers of Americans studying abroad, longer programs abroad provide better opportunities for language acquisition and deeper immersion in the culture.

The top three major fields of study of Americans studying abroad, according to Open Doors 2007, are the social sciences, business and management and humanities. Over the past decade the percentage of study abroad students majoring in business has grown from 14 to 18 percent.

The study abroad data in Open Doors 2007 reflects study conducted in the academic year 2005-2006 (including summer 2006). U.S. campus respondents to the Open Doors 2007 survey provide data on the number of study abroad students to whom they have awarded credit after completion of study abroad, so this study abroad data is the most recent that is available.

IIE has created a new Web-based resource,, to help students find scholarships and grants to help support their overseas studies. An interactive Web site, IIE Passport (, helps students find the study abroad program that best fits their academic needs. IIE Passport contains more than 6,000 study abroad and learning travel opportunities worldwide for participants of all ages, searchable by country, field of study, language, academic level, world area, city, organization, duration, and type of program.The Open Doors Report is published by the Institute of International Education, the leading nonprofit educational and cultural exchange organization in the United States. IIE has conducted the annual statistical survey of international students in the United States since 1949, and with support from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs since the early 1970s. The census is based on a survey of close to 3,000 accredited U.S. institutions.

Writer: Lee Simons


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