American college campuses are seeing more students from abroad than ever before.
A record number of foreign students -- more than 723,000 -- came to the U.S. to study last year. There was also an increase in the number of U.S. students studying on other countries. That's according to the latest figures from the international education "Open Doors" report.
The U.S. is by far the most popular country for foreign college students. More than half of the students come from China, India and South Korea.
"Even in tough economic times last year, foreign students brought $21.3 billion to local economies nationwide," says Assistant Secretary of State Ann Stock. Even more than the financial impact, he says these students enrich college campuses with their different perspectives.
Rob Hallworth heads the study abroad program at George Washington University in the District. The school hosts one of the largest international student populations in the D.C. Metro area -- almost 3,000 students. Hallsworth says students increasingly expect to experience overseas education.
Students appreciate the fact they're able to learn language skills, and in other cases, culture and traditions. And also a lot of cases students will come back and say it's helped them to reflect on what it means to live here.
The 270,000 U.S. students who study abroad are also chosing more diverse countries. While the Uniked Kingdom remains the top choice for study abroad experiences, fourteen of the top 25 destinations are outside Western Europe, and include China, New Zealand and Brazil.
Assistant Secretary of State Ann Stock hopes that more students can take part in these live-changing experiences: "There are 21 million college students in the U.S. but less than two percent take advantage of the opportunity to study abroad."
While continued growth is expected, Hallworth expects fewer GWU students to take advantage next year.
"Every four years with the election cycle we see a decrease too," says Hallworth. "Everybody wanted to be on campus when the Obama election happened. We're expecting a slight downturn in 2012. "