First place, Tommies Abroad: Nick Hable, Costa Rica. "Hidden Oasis in the Costa Rican Jungle: This photo shows our biology study abroad group holding the St. Thomas flag with a pristine waterfall in the background. This was in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle, next to Rara Avis, and we came across this after our four-hour hike into the jungle. This remote location is virtually untouched by humans, has a livelihood of animals and indigenous plants, and has little access to water and electricity. This location showed how simple life can be and it also changed our perspectives on how we view society in the United States."

Study Abroad Participation Jumps to Eighth in Nation; International Enrollment at 15-Year High

The Institute of International Education’s Open Doors Report 2016 recently released its annual report on international enrollment and U.S. students who study abroad during college.

International student enrollment and study abroad figures increase nationally

Open Doors Report 2016 reports recent (2015-16) results for rankings of international students studying in the United States. With 14,941 international students studying in Minnesota in the 2015-16 academic year, Minnesota again ranked 19th in the nation for its total number of foreign students. This indicates a 3.5 percent increase over the previous academic year.

Nationwide, the international student rate (across all types of institutions) also increased, 7 percent nationally, with 1,043,839 foreign students studying in the United States, up from 974,926.

Minnesota saw a decrease in study abroad participation, sending 8,958 students outside the United States in 2014-15, down from 9,353 the previous academic year.

Nationally, study abroad participation was up 2.9 percent with 313,415 American students studying internationally in 2014-15. The top countries of destination were the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and China.

Study abroad ranking leaps into top 10 among doctoral institutions

Open Doors 2016 report showed that St. Thomas’ undergraduate study abroad participation saw a sizeable, five-spot leap in the rankings, putting it among the top 10 leading U.S. institutions in its category for undergraduate students who study abroad. The report analyzes study abroad data from the previous academic year (2014-15).

In 2014-15, St. Thomas jumped to 760 students participating in study abroad (up from 721 students in 2013-14), putting St. Thomas’ participation rate at 56 percent, up from 52.8 percent. Nationally, this places St. Thomas eighth among doctoral institutions. Last year St. Thomas ranked 13. The ranking is based on the number of undergraduate students who participated in study abroad programs in relation to the number of undergraduate degrees conferred (1,358).

These rankings mark the 13th year of statistics in which St. Thomas has been ranked as a “doctoral/research” institution, a category that typically includes much larger schools. The top five schools in the category were, in order: Pepperdine University, American University, University of Denver, University of Notre Dame and New York University.

Sarah E. Spencer, director of the Office of Study Abroad, said, “We celebrate this achievement with the entire university – students, staff, faculty and partners – who contribute year around to expand global engagement. This honor is a wonderful foundation to build our new initiatives, including increasing global semester participation, providing additional support to increase access and inclusion, and new scholarships.”

The top countries of destination for St. Thomas students studying abroad were, in order: Italy, United Kingdom, Spain, South Africa (two J-Terms) and Australia.

International student enrollment is at record high since 2001

This year St. Thomas maintained its fourth-ranked position in Minnesota and was the top private institution based on the number of international students, with 651 (an increase from 612 the previous year) students in 2015-16. The University of Minnesota ranked first in the state (7,037), followed by Minnesota State University – Mankato (1,281) and St. Cloud State University (1,245). St. Thomas does not rank on Open Doors’ national lists for international student enrollment.

This fall 2016 figure factors an additional 106 students who are participating in the Optional Practical Training program, which allows students to stay in the United States for employment after graduation.

The Office of International Students and Scholars at St. Thomas reports a significant increase in the graduate international student population over the past four academic years: In fall 2012, 219 students enrolled; in fall 2013, the figure jumped to 243; in fall 2014, 284 students enrolled; in fall 2015, the figure increased again to 338, and this fall there are 373 graduate students.

Lori Friedman, director of the Office of International Students and Scholars, said, “We currently have our record high number of international students since 2001 and are proud to have them on our campus."

The top countries of origin of all international students at St. Thomas in fall 2016 are, in order: Saudi Arabia (124), China (111), India (95), Nepal (29) and Uganda (14). The St. Thomas international student population this semester represents 66 countries. The top countries nationally, in order, are: China, India, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Canada.

Friedman said, "Nationally Saudi Arabia moved to the third most represented country in the United States with an increase still in India. At St. Thomas, we continue to see Saudi Arabia as our most represented country on campus with India and China growing rapidly."