International Youth Exchange Data: Where Do Our Students Come From?
I’ve been thinking about the countries which send high school exchange students to the U.S. each year. As I have noted before, trends have been changing, both in the countries sending students and the visas the students are using to come to the U.S.
I recently came across an infographic showing Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET) data from 2010-2011 in a nice visual way. At first, I thought about just posting that infographic with a short “times have changed since then,” but decided to take a closer look. What I find interesting is how in some respects little has changed in the past five years; in other ways, much has changed. Compare current data for 2013-2014 (the last full year for which data are available) to the data in the infographic five years ago:
- 29,192 high school students came to the U.S. in 2013-2014 through organizations approved by CSIET to attend mostly public high schools. This number has been more or less consistent for the past decade.
- The top 10 countries from which these high school exchange students came during 2013-2014 have not changed, although individual country numbers have gone up or down:
- The top 10 countries receiving U.S. high school exchange students (“outbound” students) are mostly the same, although readers will note the decrease overall in the number of U.S. students going to each country. South Africa and Russia made it onto the list last year, while Chile and Belgium dropped off the “top 10” list, slipping down to 12th and 14th respectively. Also, we are seeing a continued downward trend in the number of U.S. high school students studying abroad overall: 1,102 went abroad in 2013-2014, which is half the number we saw five years ago.
- One of the more interesting changes in recent years is the trend from China, which continues to send more and more high school students to the U.S. to study. About 4,000 high school students came to the U.S. from China during 2013-2014 through CSIET-approved organizations, as compared to 545 just 10 years earlier. Compare this to Germany, which has consistently been the top country where high school exchange students come from: Germany still is #1, with some 6,500 students during 2013-2014, but the number has decreased by 1,000 students in recent years.
- A related change is the increased number of F-1 visa students in recent years. F-1 visa students, as I have written elsewhere, come through the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security rather than the Dept. of State, with very different goals and oversight requirements. International education professionals tend to agree that the number of high school
students coming to the U.S. on F-1 visas has increased dramatically in recent years. Most F-1 visa students attend private schools and may not come through CSIET-approved organizations (or any organization, as these students apply directly to a school), which can cause confusion in understanding the overall numbers. In 2009, the number of foreign students attending private school in the U.S. on an F-1 visa was 13,700. In 2013, that number had increased to more than 73,000. The number of F-1 students attending high schools through CSIET-approved organizations also has increased during this period, although overall numbers are much smaller: 518 F-1 students during the academic year 2009-2010 as compared to compared to a bit over 4,000 in 2013-2014.
- The infographic from 2010 shows the top 10 states where “conventional” exchange students (generally, J-1 visa and F-1 visa students in mostly public high schools and living in a cultural exchange with host families) end up. The list has not changed much (Oregon, which was on the “top 10” list five years ago, dropped from #10 in 2012-2013 to #11 in 2013-2014):
I’m not sure yet what I make of all of this. Germany continues to enthusiastically send its teens to live in host families and learn about the U.S., for example, and certain areas of the U.S. continue to be more open to (or just used to) having exchange students in their midst.
That said, the dramatic increases in F-1 students choosing to bypass conventional cultural exchange programs and attend largely private schools could substantially change the nature of international youth exchange. The changes in geographic patterns for “conventional” exchange students (i.e., the traditional cultural exchange/host family experience) could also radically change the make-up of high-school exchange within the coming decade. We know that students from China (and other Asian countries) tend to have larger cultural and language divides to overcome, which may be more difficult at the high school level; moreover, these students often have different motivations for coming to the U.S. to attend high school. This affects their exchange experience and that of their host families.
The continued downward trend for U.S. high school students to study abroad in an exchange setting is disappointing, but the numbers are too small to draw any real conclusions as to whether something is fundamentally changing in the current generation’s outlook.
For those who are interested, here is the infographic from five years ago; you can find it online here.