China climbs ranks of top study abroad spots [USA Today]

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — China is hoping that American college students watching the Summer Olympics will want to travel there, providing a bump similar to what Australia and Greece enjoyed in 2000 and 2004.

But even before the 2008 Games, China was already on its way as the hot new destination for study abroad.

There are almost certainly at least 10,000 U.S. students now enrolled annually in programs in China, up fivefold from a decade ago. China is the seventh most popular destination for U.S. students, according to the Institute of International Education. But it’s growing so quickly that, if trends continue, it will soon pass countries like Britain, Spain and Italy and become the most popular.

After a sharp dip in 2002-2003 during the SARS scare, some U.S. colleges have seen huge surges in interest. At the University of Southern California, 343 students went to China last year, more than double the total five years ago. At Purdue University in Indiana, the number has doubled in four years, and last year China became the No. 1 study abroad destination.

“There’s a sense that it’s a cutting edge destination, where they can be among the first to learn firsthand about another culture,” said Brian Harley, Purdue’s associate dean for international programs. “There’s something about being one of the first in your generation to really have a deep understanding.”

While study abroad generally is growing, China’s particular popularity has a range of explanations. It’s cheaper than Europe, whose currencies have pummeled the U.S. dollar. There’s a supply of American-trained Chinese academics who help bridge the language and culture gap. And China itself has become more welcoming, hoping to emulate how the United States has used its universities to extend its global influence.

But most of all, students see China as the future, and they want a firsthand look. [Click here to read the full story.]