Over 1 million students from more than 200 countries came to U.S. colleges and universities during the 2018–2019 school year — an all-time high, new data show.

Icons and figures about study fields (State Dept.)
Engineering, math and computer science, and business and management were top fields of study in the U.S. in the 2018–2019 school year. (State Dept.)

The students joining U.S. classrooms and communities studied fields ranging from engineering and computer science to business and management, serving as cultural ambassadors. American students likewise are going abroad in increasingly large numbers, and to an increasingly diverse array of destinations.

Those are among the findings from the 2019 “Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange,” released annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

“International exchange makes our colleges and universities more dynamic for all students,” said Marie Royce, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, “and an education at a U.S. institution can have a transformative effect for international students, just like study abroad experiences can for U.S. students.”

The release of this year’s Open Doors report kicks off the 20th annual International Education Week, a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education. This commemorative week is part of ongoing efforts to promote programs that prepare Americans for a global marketplace. This includes attracting more future leaders from abroad to study, learn and exchange experiences in the United States, and sending more American students abroad in return.

The Institute of International Education has released the Open Doors report annually since 1948, said Allan Goodman, president and CEO of IIE, and while much has changed since that first report, there is a lot of continuity in global student mobility throughout the years. Many of the top-sending countries have remained the same, and the U.S. remains the top destination for international students, welcoming over 20% of the 5 million students going abroad last year.

Top five countries of origin for international students in U.S. (State Dept.)
More than half of all international students in the U.S. in the 2018–2019 school year came from China or India. (State Dept.)

More than 341,000 U.S. students participated in study abroad programs for academic credit in the 2017–2018 academic year, and many more went abroad for work, internships and volunteer opportunities. While the majority of U.S. students study abroad in Europe, other parts of the world have seen immense growth in the number of American students joining their classrooms. Japan, Greece, the Netherlands, Israel and Argentina all saw double-digit increases in the last year, while the United Kingdom received around half of the United States’ study abroad students.

“The record numbers of international students in the United States and U.S. students studying abroad mean that more students than ever before are being exposed to new ideas and ways of thinking,” Goodman said. “They will have greater ability to succeed in and contribute to an increasingly complex and interconnected world.”

This article was written by freelance writer Maeve Allsup.