Record Number of US Students Studying in ASEAN Countries

ASEAN The Mekong

The number of US students studying in ASEAN countries is on an upward trend, with more than 3,700 going during the 2009/10 academic year, triple the number from ten years ago. It was a record year for five ASEAN countries—Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Indonesia— hosting US students with Thailand remaining the most popular destination, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE). Over the past decade, US students in Southeast Asian countries have increased from 1,210 in 2000/01 to 3,701 in 2009/10, an average annual growth of 13%. The top three fields of academic study for US students studying abroad are social sciences, business, and humanities, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

As noted in the graph above, Thailand hosts more US students than any other ASEAN country—1,231 for 2009/10—though this number has been declining since 2006/07, likely caused in part by domestic political and civil unrest. Webster University, Missouri, the only university accredited in both the United States and Thailand, is one of the leading US universities to send US students to its campus in Cha-am. Cal Poly, San Luis Abispo, California, is another leading sender of US students to Thailand, followed by the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities and the University of Washington, according to the IIE report US Students Study Abroad in Thailand.

In the same year Singapore hosted 841 US students and is the second most popular destination for US students in Southeast Asia, followed by Vietnam. San Diego State University has successfully established a study abroad program with Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, where classes are taught in English. The number of US students going to Vietnam continues to grow—686 in 2009/10. Loyola University Chicago became the first US university in 2007 to receive a license from Vietnamese authorities to establish a joint educational program at the Vietnam National University according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The number of US students studying in Cambodia in 2009/10 increased 75 percent over the previous year placing that country fourth among ASEAN countries for hosting US students. The diversity of programs on offer to US students studying in Cambodia includes George Mason University’s study abroad program entitled Community Development, Post Conflict Reconstruction and Spirituality, while students from the University of Mary Washington focused upon geography during their recent spring 2012 Cambodian study abroad experience.

The value of a study abroad experience for US students has been emphasized by leading public and private leaders. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton endorsed study abroad for US students during the 2011 International Education Week initiative jointly sponsored by the Departments of State and Education. "I am asking all American students to think about expanding your own worldview by studying in another country. I hope the administrators of our American colleges and universities will support this study abroad experience." US News and World Report began in spring 2011 releasing data on colleges and universities “with stellar examples of study abroad programs.”

A number of public and private programs support study abroad experiences for US students. The IIEPassport initiative provides prospective students with information on programs, including in Southeast Asia and StudyAbroadFunding offers resources on funding the venture. Undergraduate students choosing to go to Southeast Asia are eligible to apply for the IIE administrated Freeman-Asia scholarship which has sponsored over 4,000 students who chose to study in Asia since its implementation in 2001. US government sponsored scholarship programs applicable to Southeast Asia include the Boren Scholarship and Fellowship Program, the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, and the Fulbright Program.

For the more adventurous there is the option of the Semester at Sea program, sponsored by the University of Virginia, which include global voyages that make port calls in Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. Other opportunities include programs that incorporate multiple countries in one trip as is the case in this itinerary to Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam with the University of Houston. It is likely that with increased interaction between the United States and Southeast Asian states, the number of programs and choices for US students to study in the region will also increase.