Elon ranked #1 in study abroad

Elon has again topped the list for study abroad participation according to the Institute of International Education (IIE)’s Open Doors report.

For a 16th consecutive year, Elon University has ranked #1 among the nation’s doctoral universities in the percentage of students who study abroad. The top ranking is included in the Open Doors 2020 report by the Institute of International Education (IIE) released Nov. 16.

Photo of Carson White ’20 on COR 331 Tanzania: Wilderness & Adventure Therapy, winter 2020. “Resilience in the form of a spectacular view while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro as part of Elon’s GEC’s first trip to one of the world’s seven summits. This trip is likely the most physically and mentally strenuous program the school has ever launched. Even during all this adversity, moments like these put smiles on tired faces.”

This year’s ranking is determined by study abroad numbers during the 2018-19 academic year. It gauges participation before the global COVID-19 pandemic, which beginning in the spring forced the early termination and cancelation of scores of study abroad opportunities for students at Elon and other universities around the globe.

“This year has taught us all that Elon’s success in global engagement is not measured in the numbers, but in the individual experiences,” said Woody Pelton, dean of global education. “This fall we have 19 brave students studying away, experiencing an unforgettable semester. Uncertain times call for uncommon courage and hope for the future.”

The #1 ranking comes on the heels of the #1 ranking for study abroad in the 2021 U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” guide for the second straight year. The Princeton Review also ranks Elon #1 for most popular study abroad program.

Elon places #1 in undergraduate percent participation in study abroad among doctoral universities, a percentage calculated by the number of undergraduate study abroad students against the number of undergraduate degrees conferred in that year.

The top doctoral universities recognized by IIE for study abroad participation include the following:

  1. Elon University
  2. University of San Diego
  3. Pepperdine University
  4. Wake Forest University
  5. Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  6. New York University
  7. University of Notre Dame
  8. University of Denver
  9. Georgetown University
  10. American University
The Elon Softball team participating in Taiko Drumming practice in Tokyo, Japan, in fall 2019. This is a form of rhythmic drumming used in Japan to add excitement among a crowd of people. Originally used during religious ceremonies and battles, it is now used at sporting events, festivals and parades.” (Courtesy of Coach Kathy Bocock)

A more precise measure of study abroad at Elon is to look at participation among the graduating class. A record 85.3 percent of the class of 2019 had a global engagement during their years at Elon. Elon also ranks #37 overall for total study abroad students and #20 overall for study abroad students on mid-length duration (semester) programs.

These rankings for total numbers are all the more impressive within the context of institution size. The average enrollment for the top 40 institutions for total number of study abroad students is around 38,000 – more than five times Elon’s enrollment. Elon is the top institution for total number of study abroad students among institutions with 15,000 students or less.

Photo of David Shibley ‘19 on GBL 259 Ireland: Literature, Culture, & History, winter 2019.“The breathtaking scenery on display at Giant’s Causeway is unimaginable. No amount of time spent immersed in the landscape could ever feel like enough. I am still perplexed by its topography.”

By design, the Open Door’s report is delayed by two academic years. For the field of international education, this year’s Open Doors report of 2018-19 data will be the last benchmark before COVID-19 – a high-water mark among decades of growth in international exchange. The pandemic has Elon and other institutions adapting their global engagement programs and exploring creative ways to safetly provide students with study abroad opportunities.

“My belief is that Elon will come back with a bigger heart, a stronger passion and a greater imagination for what the potential of future global engagement can hold for each of us,” said Rhonda Waller, executive director of global engagement.