Travel Research

American University Students Don’t Study Abroad…But Guess What? Neither do European!

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.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

2 thoughts on “American University Students Don’t Study Abroad…But Guess What? Neither do European!

  1. Um…have you ever considered that the language barrier might be a factor? No? Thought so too. American students tend to presume everyone speaks English as a default, whereas Europeans are clever enough to realise that if you study in France when you are actually from Germany requires, ya know, SPEAKING FRENCH, even if you are just “a few hours drive” away from home. And just fyi, Erasmus is in no way enough money to actually finance your study abroad semester (or year), you need to have decent savings to make it through the study abroad experience, especially if you go to European countries like Norway or the UK, which are notoriously expensive.

  2. Statistics 101. Don’t compare apples to oranges. In this case the author compares the 14 % in total to the 10 % at any time in Europe. I am sorry to say so but 10 % at any time is huge. This means that around 30 % – 40 % of european students study abroad at some stage considering ERASMUS is mostly 6 months – 1 year on 3- 5 year programmes. Consider this as well: each european country has its own labour market. This means that there is asymmetry of information between recruiters and the quality of education. Simply put recruiters in your home country have no idea about the quality of foreign insitution. If you were researching this article well instead of mindlessly throwing around random facts you would know that most European countries have their own language and education system.

    I know what I am talking about as a European masters student who has gone on exchange both within the EU as in Asia.

Comments are closed.