Fall Study Abroad Locations – How They Have Changed from 2007 to Now

It’s October, which means that students taking part in Fall study abroad programs around the world are all settled into their “homes away from home.”  In the United States, we know that 300,0000 students study abroad each year, and while destinations in Asia and Latin America are gaining popularity, 65 percent of US students still study abroad in Europe.

Data shows that students studying abroad today are making a kind of “temporary home” within the culture they have chosen to experience. Students are increasing their average length of stay and in-destination spend (fueling local economies), and are more likely to return in the future. They are crossing borders for language immersion and engaging in jobs and internships while abroad. Additionally, according to IES Abroad, nearly half of those who have studied abroad engaged in international work or volunteerism after their studies were over.

Sometimes it’s fun to go back into the data archives and see how things have changed over time. We went in the “way back machine” to take a look at how study abroad destinations have changed over time – from 2007 to 2011 to today. The data presented in this article is based on our booking volume for Fall Study Abroad flights in 2007, 2011 and 2015. Fall Study Abroad flights are classified as being booked by travelers departing the United States or Canada on one-way or roundtrip flights to an international location between August 15 and September 19 for a stay that is longer than 30 days.

Here are some of the most interesting findings we discovered:

Fall Study Abroad Locations-how they changed-StudentUniverse

London has been the top study abroad location since 2007.

More than 400,000 students study abroad in the United Kingdom every year. The number of students studying abroad in the UK is up 100% year-over-year (YoY) from 2014 to 2015 (by 10,000-20,0000 students). Why? For many American students, London gives them a foothold in Europe with the comfort of being in an English-speaking country. London also has the highest number of universities ranked amongst the world’s best – 19 universities in the QS World University Rankings and two in the global top 5.

Fall Study Abroad Locations-how they changed-StudentUniverse

Madrid and Paris have been in the top 5 most popular destinations since 2007.

Although their rankings have changed slightly over the years, Madrid (#5 in 2007 and #2 in both 2011 and 2015) and Paris (#2 in 2007 and #3 in 2011 and 2015) remain top Fall study abroad destinations.

According to CIS Abroad, Spain, with two cities on the 2011 and 2015 list, remains one of the most popular study abroad destinations due to the country’s vibrant culture, exciting nightlife, and beautiful Mediterranean climate. When it comes to study abroad in Paris, AIFS Study Abroad says, “renowned for its art and architecture and celebrated for its wine, cuisine and fashion, France is a cultural leader….students can stroll the boulevards of Paris, enjoy the sun and sea of the Riviera or hike an Alpine trail.”

Fall Study Abroad Locations-how they changed-StudentUniverse

The number of students studying abroad in Dublin Rose 16,000% in seven years.

The growth in the number of students studying abroad in Dublin rose over 16,000% in just seven years. It became one of the top 5 most popular study abroad destinations in 2015. From Dublin to Galway to Cork, Ireland has an international reputation for cities that students love to live and study in. They are also known for their hospitality – the Irish were rated as the friendliest nation of people in the world by Lonely Planet in 2008 and everything you read about Ireland mentions how friendly the people are. While American students studying abroad can enjoy the comfort of being in any English-speaking country, Ireland is a great deal cheaper than its neighbors in the UK.

Fall Study Abroad Locations-how they changed-StudentUniverse

Japan’s popularity rebounds – Tokyo back in the top 10.

In 2007, Osaka, Japan was our ninth most popular study abroad destination. It fell to #50 by 2011 (the number of students studying there decreasing by 83%) and although it made up ground (moving to the #24 spot in 2015) it is still a far cry from where it once was in our list.  In a similar fashion, Tokyo was one of the top 5 Fall study abroad destinations in 2007 (#5) and decreased considerably in 2011, falling to #20 and experiencing a 66% decrease in the volume of students studying abroad there. Tokyo did make up some ground in 2015, moving back up to the top 10 destinations to #9 and resuming volume levels close to what it experienced in 2007. One could argue that much of this growth has been fueled by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s initiatives aimed at internationalizing Japan’s higher education system by increasing inbound and outbound student exchange.

Two other destinations that were in the top 10 in 2007 and 2011 have also decreased considerably in 2015:

>>Frankfurt, Germany was the #8 most popular Fall study abroad destination in 2007 and #6 in 2011, but fell to #17 in 2015.

>>Similarly, Florence was our #7 most popular Fall study abroad location in 2007, rose to #5 in 2011 and then dropped out of the top 10 to #11 in 2015.

Fall Study Abroad Locations-how they changed-StudentUniverse

The volume of students traveling to Barcelona and Shanghai have increased hundreds of percentage points since 2007.

The volume of students traveling to Barcelona has exploded in the last eight years. Since 2007, Barcelona has experienced a 219% increase in study abroad students, moving it from the 19th most popular Fall study abroad destination in 2007 into the top 10 for both 2011 and 2015.

Similarly, Shanghai, our #21 Fall study abroad destination in 2007, has made a rapid increase in popularity. It experienced 344% growth in the number of students studying abroad there in the last seven years. It’s easy to see why Shanghai is so appealing to international students. As the financial capital of China and one of China’s largest cities, Shanghai is one of the most populated cities in the world and boasts an “international spirit.” Many of Shanghai’s universities are located right in the heart of the city giving students easy access to some of the city’s most popular attractions. The city’s central location in China also provides students the ability to travel around very easily.  According to GoOverseas, foreigners often claim to feel more comfortable in Shanghai (“the Paris of the East”) than Beijing.

Here is the full breakdown of the top 10 study abroad destinations in 2007, 2011 and 2015:

Top 2015 Fall Study Destinations:

Top 2011 Fall Study Abroad Destinations: Top 2007 Fall Study Abroad Destinations:

London

London London

Madrid

Madrid Paris

Paris

Paris Rome

Beijing

Rome Madrid

Dublin

Florence

Tokyo

Shanghai Frankfurt

Beijing

Rome Shanghai

Florence

Barcelona Beijing

Frankfurt

Tokyo Amsterdam

Osaka

Edinburgh Barcelona

Seoul

In addition to the natural growth and evolution of travel destinations, major political initiatives can have an impact on destinations that become popular amongst students.  It will be interesting to see what change the  U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational + Cultural Affairs  (formed earlier this year) has on the awareness and frequency of students studying abroad, and the locations they travel to. The purpose of the Bureau is to encourage more students to study abroad, provide information about the grants that are available for students to study abroad and encourage travel to new destinations, including SouthEast Asia, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Studying abroad helps young adults gain self-confidence, improved cognitive and interpersonal skills, and stronger cultural sensitivity. It prepares them for success and gives an edge over their peers as they venture into the professional landscape.Those who take an interest in exploring the world away from home and learning from it, come back motivated and better prepared to take on new challenges. Our objective is to make those experiences more affordable and catered to students’ needs. We will continue to keep a close pulse on the evolution of study abroad destinations and share our insights with you as they continue to evolve.