by Wendy Williamson, Director of Study Abroad, Eastern Illinois University
As a study abroad director, writer, and former Peace Corps volunteer, I tend to flee from destinations that are oversaturated with gobs of tourists and study abroad students. Instead, I scout out the (a) fastest growing non-traditional destinations for study abroad and (b) undiscovered cities in traditional study abroad countries.
In fact, one of the most exciting times of the year for me is now, when IIE releases its Open Doors Report. This report is the most comprehensive tool for measuring growth among international students in the US and US students studying abroad. Interestingly enough, Kuwait was the fastest growing study abroad destination (from 2006/7 to 2007/08) in the 2009 Report. It grew from 2 students to 35 (a 1650% growth rate). I’m not saying that I will run to develop a study abroad opportunity in Kuwait, but it’s food for thought. One country that might appeal to our students is Mali, which grew 271% from 39 to 145 students. Other countries that might work for us include Tunisia (174%), Uruguay (112%), Jordan (110%), United Arab Emirates (99%), or Honduras (75%).
The second strategy I use is to look at the most popular study abroad destinations, like the United Kingdom (33333 US students) or Italy (30670 US students) and try to find undiscovered gems that will offer a rich study abroad experience for students who really want to take advantage of the learning experiences that study abroad opportunities offer. I found one of those gems this year in a small city of Italy (Tuscania). I met 7 study abroad students there, all as happy as can be about their program decision. I was able to watch them engaged in a cooking course with a world renowned chef and enjoy the meal afterwards. Many of the students opted to live with an Italian family. The beauty of living in Tuscania is they could immerse themselves in small-town Italian culture, and visit the big-city tourist destinations, all at the same time.
So why should you choose a study abroad destination that is off-the-beaten path?
::No competition among other study abroad programs
::Locals may be friendly and more open to foreigners
::More attractive prices for students without much cash
::Cultural immersion programs attract serious students
::Serious students reduce time spent managing behavior
::Week days for study; weekends for tourism & travel
::Quality programs boost the reputation of your institution
Submitted by Wendy Williamson, Director of Study Abroad, Eastern Illinois University