A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Open Doors: studying abroad and students from abroad

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 8, 2009

Yesterday evening I had a nice chat with a college friend who has also spent time in the Middle East – well, in Kuwait at least. We talked about the changes that Kuwait in particular, and the region in general, has undergone in the eight years since he was last there.

What we really need, he said, is to send more American students there, and to keep bringing more Middle Eastern students here. Of course, the latter is easier said than done, thanks to our onerous visa process. But it is illuminating to see how many American students do study abroad in the region, and where they go – as well as how many come here.

Conveniently enough, a report was recently released giving the latest statistics: Open Doors, an annual report that tracks trends in university study abroad programs, and on international students and scholars coming to the United States.

According to its statistics on the Middle East, 11% more students from the region came to the US for the 2007-08 academic year – a total of 24,755. The number from North Africa increased 4%, to 3,858. 28,613 students from the region isn’t bad – but compared to the roughly 300 million people who live in the Arab world, its a small amount.

The biggest sending countries are Saudi Arabia (9,873), Iran (3,060) [go figure!], Israel (3,004), Jordan (1,799), Kuwait (1,823), Lebanon (1,807), Egypt (1,766), and Morocco (1,132). Saudi Arabia and Iran are much larger countries, population-wise, so its not surprising that they send proportionately more students. (Well, it wouldn’t be surprising if we didn’t have sanctions against Iran. I’m curious to know more about the Iranian students, most of whom appear to be graduate students.)

If you thought the 28,613 MENA students was a small number, guess how many Americans studied abroad in the region last year?

2,764 in the Middle East (an increase of 7%) and 1,658 in North Africa (an increase of 14%).

The biggest destination countries: Israel (2,226) and Egypt (1,100).

In other words, of the 4,222 American students who studied abroad in the Middle East and North Africa most recently, 52.7% of them went to Israel.

Food for thought. In the meantime, I’m off to learn more about white phosphorus.

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2 Responses to “Open Doors: studying abroad and students from abroad”

  1. qussa said

    This was not in the States, but I remember going to the study abroad office of my university to ask about the possibilities of spending a year or so in the Middle East (hoping to pick up some Arabic along the way). The lady replied full of enthusiasm: ‘Of course you can go there! We have a great partner-program in Tel Aviv!’

    and that was it. The partner-program in Egypt was only open to students of the Arabic language. Nothing else available in the whole region.

    (I ended up doing spending a year in NYC…)

  2. N, Tel Aviv’s loss was New York’s gain. Glad to know that American universities are not the only bastions of provincialism!

    Your story reminds me of high school in Iowa: when I told my guidance counselor that I planned to attend college out of state (i.e., on the East Coast), he looked at me and frowned. After hemming and hawing, he finally said: Well, if you really want to do that, Missouri has a fine state school.

    Sigh.

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