It probably comes as no surprise that only one percent of American collage students study abroad each year (Americans may love to travel, but they tend to do most of it within US borders). But while that may be true, that statistic doesn’t give you the whole picture. One percent of Americans study abroad each, true, but that’s PER YEAR. When you expand the scope a bit, you find that 14 percent of college students study abroad at some point during their undergraduate studies (big difference, huh?)
Of course, 14 percent is still a small number. But Europe isn’t doing much better. According to statistics cited in The New York Times, at any given time of the year, just 10 percent of European college students are studying abroad. While that’s certainly higher than one percent, you would think that number would be greater considering:
1. Compared to the US, countries in Europe are tiny. Thus, for European uni students, “studying abroad” often means living just a few hour drive away from home.
2. The EU funds a program called Erasmus, which helps pay for students to study in another European country. About half of European students who study abroad receive financial assistance from this program.
So why don’t more college kids move abroad? The New York Times had an answer for that too. Apparently, college students in Britain and the US don’t study abroad for many of the same reasons and include the following:
1. They don’t have enough information
2. They’re afraid of being homesick
3. They worry about not having enough money
Interesting. While I don’t get the first two reasons on that list, I think the third one is valid. Studying abroad can be expensive, and just the cost of the plane ticket alone would be reason enough for many students not to be able to afford it. But…when I lived in Eastern Germany my senior year of college, my day to day living expenses were far cheaper than what they were back home in New York. My rent was only 160 Euros, public transportation was cheap and my daily budget for food was under 5 Euro. Even going out was inexpensive, as beers often cost just one Euro and most of the clubs and bars waved their cover charges for students. I also worked while I lived in Germany (I was a nanny, an English tutor and even briefly worked as a bartender) and was able to pay most of my bills without help from parents.
I think that most college students would be able to afford to study abroad if they really wanted to. They may have to sacrifice Europe for a less expensive area of the world (say, South America), but I don’t it’s naive to think that with some careful planning and budgeting, most anyone could save up enough money to spend a few months of their college career abroad; it’s just a matter of wanting to.
What do you think?
Photo courtesy of Thompson Rivers University.