American students are shying away from studying abroad, discouraged by cost, natural disasters, geopolitical instability and the challenge of meeting credit requirements toward their degrees. Participation grew a slim 1.3% in 2010–11, reports the Institute of International Education, the second-worst showing in more than a decade.
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But students should reconsider, says Institute president Allan Goodman. The experience could pay career dividends. And, says Goodman, "despite the perception that it costs more, studying abroad generally isn't more expensive than staying at home." More campuses are making financial aid portable, so you can use it to cover expenses overseas. Look for scholarships at www.studyabroadfunding.org. Goodman also suggests trying shorter-term summer or winter foreign-study programs.
That's what recent grad Chris Standley did. His credit-intensive aerospace engineering major at Texas A&M might have prevented him from traveling abroad. But he found a summer study trip to Brazil that earned him 12 credits toward his major. A competitive scholarship covered some of the cost, and the trip helped him land a job with a Korean car-parts company. "They asked what it was like to work with others who didn't share the same culture or language, and they were happy to see that I had that experience," Standley says.