Until recently, an American undergraduate wanting to study abroad would generally pick up a trivial but classic Western Europe destination – Florence, Paris, Barcelona, London or Berlin.
The Old World, together with its rich culture and widely spoken languages, is educationally vital. Nevertheless, students nowadays are aware of how important it is to expand their linguistic and cultural horizons. At many workplaces, especially regarding top positions, Italian, French, Spanish, English or German might not be enough to really stand out. Getting to know the language and culture of a less popular (as a study destination), but geopolitically and economically crucial country could turn into a decisive advantage.
Consequently, there is a growing (and strongly encouraged by the government) trend among U.S. students to study at a “non-traditional” destination. Among the top favorites count India, Turkey and the Middle East.
The second most populous country in the world is one of the most attractive “exotic” study destinations. Its official language is Hindu, with English being regarded as “subsidiary official language” because of its very wide usage in business and administration.
India’s constantly increasing political and economic importance and its rich assortment of cultures and languages make it extremely interesting for foreign students. However, the U.S. students in India are still less than 5.000 and mostly on one-up-to-two semester programs.
Turkey’s uniquely strategic crossroads location, its growing economy and diplomatic efforts, make it a country of special importance.
It participated in the Erasmus program, whose goal is to intensify academic collaboration and student exchange within Europe. In order to suit the needs of incoming foreign students, Turkish universities also started to offer courses in more languages (other than English). Main participating cities are the cosmopolitan Istanbul and the capital Ankara.
Besides Turkish, foreign students in Turkey can also learn Arabic, Kurdish, and Azerbaijan.
The number of U.S. students studying Arabic is very high. It is actually in the top ten of the foreign languages studied. However, the number of students who study it abroad, in a Middle East country, is very small – less than 1% of all learners. The most popular Arabic-speaking countries are Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco.