More students from overseas are coming to the US to study, according to a new study that was released today by the Institute of International Education. The report also says that more US students are going overseas to study.

The International student data is from 2012/13 while the US student data is 2011/12.

The top two countries that send students to the US are not surprising: China and India. In third place is South Korea which sends 70,000 students, surprising for its size and population, but knowing Korean people’s admirable respect for education, perhaps not a surprise. Unexpected was the fourth place country, Saudi Arabia, up 30% from the year before.World

The number of US students going overseas has also increased. 2011/12 saw 283,000 students study abroad, which is an increase of 3% over the previous year. As I would expect, the top destinations were in Europe: the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, and “rising power”, China. My personal favorite countries to study in–Australia, India, and Japan were ranked seventh, twelfth, and tenth respectively.

What does this mean?

Well, newspapers will slice and dice the data, but I notice one clear trend: US students are choosing safe destinations–those with little emotional or mental challenges–Europe mostly, with some of the more adventurous journeying to China.

On the other hand, countries that are developing at a rapid pace, supposed economic leaders of the future, such as China and India, send many students to the US.

Look at China. It sends 235,000 students to the US (83% of what the US sends overseas in TOTAL). The US sends only 15,000 students to China. Even if we take into account the population–China’s is about 4 times that of the US–15,000 times 4 is only 60,000, about 25% of what is sent to the US.

Yes, certainly, other factors exist–the language is a problem for US students, the culture, and the development level is quite different, but nevertheless, it is clear that US students might want to challenge themselves more.