Study Abroad


NAFSA supports public policies that increase opportunities for American college students to study abroad. A generation ago, there was a national concern that students without access to computers would fall behind their peers and be at a competitive disadvantage in seeking jobs; the same can be said today of students without access to global educational opportunities.

Study abroad is a learning opportunity that enables students to develop critical skills and that contributes in vital ways to preparing students for the competitive global environment into which they will graduate.

Timeline of Advocacy Successes

Over the past 15 years, NAFSA has worked to advance policies that support the growth and diversification of study abroad.

Review these successes on this interactive timeline.

What We're Doing Now

Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act

Championed by Sen. Richard Durbin, this legislative initiative has garnered broad support in Congress and in the international and higher education community. The Simon Act proposes an innovative approach to dramatically increasing study abroad and emphasizes increasing study abroad participation to one million U.S. students each year; encouraging diversity in student participation; diversifying locations of study abroad, particularly in non-traditional countries; and encouraging a greater commitment by institutions of higher education to expand study abroad opportunities.

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State Department Initiatives

The State Department has launched several initiatives to increase the number of American students studying abroad to certain regions of the world. NAFSA supports these regional initiatives and is working with the State Department to advance these programs.

  • 100,000 Strong in the Americas
    • NAFSA has partnered with the U.S. State Department and Partners of the Americas to create the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund to help implement this initiative. The Innovation Fund is a public-private partnership designed to raise money for grants to higher education institutions that have shown a commitment to expanding academic mobility within the Western hemisphere.
    • Learn more about the initiative by joining the Innovation Network.
  • 100,000 Strong in China
    • The State Department’s 100,000 Strong in China Initiative has spun-off into the independent, bipartisan 100,000 Strong Foundation hosted by American University in Washington, DC. The foundation engages with stakeholders to expand the number and diversity of Americans studying Mandarin and studying abroad in China.
  • Passport to India
    • The Passport to India programs seek to increase the number of American students with first-hand experience in India by increasing the number of internships available. The initiative will promote business internships linked to student’s academic interest areas, summer scientific research, and service learning internships in India.
  • Transatlantic Friendship and Mobility Initiative
    • The Transatlantic Friendship and Mobility Initiative is an agreement between the United States and France to increase academic collaboration by doubling the number of students studying abroad between the two countries, increasing the diversity of study abroad participants, fostering greater research collaborations, encouraging bilateral partnerships, and strengthening institutional partnerships between French and American institutions of higher education. This initiative is endorsed by NAFSA, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, and the Institute of International Education.

Opening Travel to Cuba

Together with many other organizations, NAFSA recently celebrated a great success with the opening of educational exchanges and academic travel to Cuba. NAFSA continues to support academic freedom and travel to and from Cuba.

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Impact of Study Abroad

Papers and Reports