Top 10 Study Abroad Destinations for U.S. Students

Where U.S. students study abroad

From the romantic allure of Paris to the lush rainforests of Costa Rica, more than 347,000 American students studied abroad in the 2018-19 school year, according to data from the Institute of International Education. While the majority opted for Europe, other popular destinations included Asia and Latin America, per IIE data. Various study abroad options exist, including partnership programs with a student’s home college, host organizations, language schools and international exchanges. Though many college study abroad programs may be stuck in limbo now due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has prompted travel restrictions around the world, here’s a look at the top 10 study abroad destinations for U.S. students and the top college in each country, per the U.S. News Best Global Universities rankings.

Costa Rica

Number of U.S. students in 2018-19: 8,333

U.S. News top-ranked global university: Universidad Costa Rica, 822 (tie)

With abundant rainforests and crystalline beaches, Costa Rica is a tourist paradise. But it isn’t just for visitors; it’s also a top 10 study abroad destination for Americans. Though it remains a popular spot, the number of U.S. students in Costa Rica dropped by 4% in the 2018-19 school year. Universidad Costa Rica, the country’s top-ranked school, has roots back to 1843 and enrolls more than 40,000 students.

Japan

Number of U.S. students in 2018-19: 8,928

U.S. News top-ranked global university: University of Tokyo, 73 (tie)

Despite a close trade partnership, the U.S. and Japan do not currently have a robust exchange of students. But the number of U.S. students in Japan is trending up, growing by 5.4% over the prior year. Japan’s top-ranked school, the University of Tokyo, was founded in 1877 and has multiple campuses across the island nation.

Australia

Number of U.S. students in 2018-19: 10,665

U.S. News top-ranked global university: University of Melbourne, 25

Australia has been a hot spot for American students in recent years. That popularity persisted in 2018-19, with the number of Americans studying Down Under climbing by 3.2%, according to IIE. The University of Melbourne, Australia’s top college in the U.S. News Best Global Universities rankings, was founded in 1853 and features seven campuses across the nation.

China

Number of U.S. students in 2018-19: 11,639

U.S. News top-ranked global university: Tsinghua University, 28

Despite trade and diplomatic tensions that threaten to disrupt enrollment growth, China sends more students to the U.S. — 372,532 in 2019-20 — than the entire population of American students studying abroad. The influx of U.S. students to China increased by 0.2% in 2018-19, per IIE data. China’s top-ranked school, Tsinghua University, was founded in 1911.

Ireland

Number of U.S. students in 2018-19: 11,777

U.S. News top-ranked global university: University College Dublin, 226 (tie)

The Emerald Isle has seen growth in recent years as a study abroad destination for U.S. students, but saw a 1.6% decrease in the 2018-19 school year, per IIE data. Ireland’s leading university, University College Dublin, was established as Catholic University of Ireland before adopting its current name in 1908.

Germany

Number of U.S. students in 2018-19: 12,029

U.S. News top-ranked global university: University of Munich, 46

For years, Germany has been a growing destination for American students. However, that growth slipped in 2018-19, dipping by 1.8%, according to IIE. Germany’s top-ranked college, the University of Munich, has roots dating back to 1472.

France

Number of U.S. students in 2018-19: 18,465

U.S. News top-ranked global university: Sorbonne Universite, 43 (tie)

No stop in France is complete without an Eiffel Tower selfie, and many Americans likely had the chance to snap one as they studied in the fourth most popular destination for U.S. students in 2018-19. France saw a 7.4% increase in Americans studying abroad. The nation’s top college, per U.S. News rankings, is Sorbonne Universite in Paris. According to the school’s website, the university’s roots can be traced back to the 13th century to when The University de Paris was founded.

Spain

Number of U.S. students in 2018-19: 33,849

U.S. News top-ranked global university: University of Barcelona, 90 (tie)

Spain said “bienvenidos” to more than 33,000 American students in the 2018-19 school year, per IIE data. As the third most popular destination for U.S. students, it hosted 9.8% of American study abroad participants, a 4.4% increase from the 2017-18 academic year. Spain’s top school, the University of Barcelona, was founded in 1450.

Italy

Number of U.S. students in 2018-19: 39,043

U.S. News top-ranked global university: University of Bologna, 112

Welcoming more than 39,000 U.S. students, picturesque Italy is the second most popular study abroad destination for Americans. Of all U.S. students studying abroad in 2018-19, 11.2% did so in Italy, which saw a 5.7% increase of American students. Italy’s top college, the University of Bologna, traces its history back nearly a millennium to 1088 and has five campuses across the country, as well as an international location in Argentina.

United Kingdom

Number of U.S. students in 2018-19: 39,358

U.S. News top-ranked global university: University of Oxford, 5

The top study abroad destination for American students is the U.K. With nearly 39,500 American students, the U.K. was host to 11.3% of U.S. study abroad participants in 2018-19, per IIE, which is a slight dip of 0.1% compared with the prior year. The U.K.’s top-ranked school, the University of Oxford, dates back to at least 1096.

Find the best school for you.

Explore our Best Global Universities rankings for more information on the top institutions in the world. Follow U.S. News Education on Facebook and Twitter for more higher education news.

Top countries where U.S. students study abroad

— United Kingdom

— Italy

— Spain

— France

— Germany

— Ireland

— China

— Australia

— Japan

— Costa Rica

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4 Popular European MBA Programs for Americans

Top 10 Study Abroad Destinations for U.S. Students originally appeared on usnews.com

Update 12/22/20: This slideshow has been updated with new information and to reflect ranks from the 2021 U.S. News Best Global Universities rankings.

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