The University of Michigan is the top-ranked Big Ten university and No. 4 in the nation when it comes to students studying abroad, according to a new report.

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The university had 3,429 U.S. students in 137 countries earning credit in education-abroad programs in 2018-19 — the most recent academic year with complete data — according to the annual Open Doors report by the Institute of International Education, a New York-based nonprofit.

“Experiencing other cultures is a critical eye opener to how people work, learn and engage with collaborators from other countries in any type of endeavors,” said Valeria Bertacco, vice provost for engaged learning.

Spain, the United Kingdom and Italy were the top destinations during the 2018-19 academic year, with 1,405 U-M students.

Kristiana Hila, a graduate nursing student, traveled to Thailand in November 2019 when she was a second-year nurse practitioner. (Photo courtesy of Kristiana Hila)
Kristiana Hila (second from right), a graduate nursing student, traveled to Thailand in November 2019 when she was a second-year nurse practitioner. (Photo courtesy of Kristiana Hila)

Graduate nursing student Kristiana Hila chose Thailand. She traveled to Nakhon Ratchasima in November 2019, when she was a second-year nurse practitioner and was looking for global health opportunities and ways to practice community service and health care.

Hila took an eight-credit capstone clinical course and worked closely with nursing students at the Suranaree University of Technology. Nakhon Ratchasima is located three hours northeast of Bangkok, with a population of about 127,000 people.

“When you immerse yourself in a culture, you are able to better understand the people and the customs/practices that you engage in,” she said. “This real-time experience ultimately allows you to let go of biases or other reservations you may have toward the unknown, allowing you to foster growth in many different realms.”

While in Thailand, Hila was able to increase her practice skills and knowledge, both academically and clinically, to form a greater understanding of alternate health systems and also to create long lasting friendships within the Thai community.

“Partaking in a global experience is something that you will never regret. It is being a part of something greater than yourself,” she said. “You are given the opportunity to grow not only personally but also professionally. Additionally, your understanding of cultural humility and diversity will be strengthened.”

Although the Open Doors report — commissioned by the U.S. State Department — is the most complete census of education abroad in the United States, the study does not provide a total count of U-M students who have gone overseas.

Not included in the report are students who are not U.S. citizens. Also excluded are those who go abroad for noncredit educational experiences, such as internships, volunteer projects, research and performances.

Including these students in the total education-abroad tally, U-M had 5,640 students overseas in 2018-19 — 2,211 more students than in the Open Doors report. These students participated in 6,106 trips, indicating that many U-M students engaged in multiple international experiences.

“We are pleased that so many U-M students have pursued opportunities to learn abroad,” Bertacco said. “While this strong Open Doors ranking is based on data from the 2018-2019 academic year, we also want to acknowledge the terrific work that our education abroad professionals did more recently, responding to the pandemic and keeping U-M well positioned to resume these valuable programs when circumstances allow.”

Sanghamithra Kalimi is a student at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and was part of the Ross China Fellowship in 2019, a self-designed project focused on the China market. Besides improving her language skills, the trip allowed her to pursue an educational project to understand how culture can impact a business.

“With the world becoming more globalized, there is an increasing interconnectedness between businesses, markets and, ultimately, people,” she said. “I believe the ability to analyze and thoughtfully consider my surroundings is a critical component in developing ourselves as global business leaders.”

U-M graduate Maisha Rahman worked at Peking University Third Hospital in Beijing during fall 2019. (Photo courtesy of Maisha Rahman)
U-M graduate Maisha Rahman worked at Peking University Third Hospital in Beijing during fall 2019. (Photo courtesy of Maisha Rahman)

Recent graduate Maisha Rahman was a third-year pharmacy student when she landed an international rotation at the Peking University Third Hospital in Beijing during fall 2019. She learned about traditional Chinese medicine and had the chance to study reproductive medicine.

“I interacted with patients every step of the way and even had the chance to try my hand at some TCM practices such as acupuncture on willing patients,” Rahman said. “This experience taught me a number of lessons, the value of hope, the importance of understanding and safely providing life-changing therapies, and being steadfast and empathetic as a provider to support our patients through their many unique trials in life.”

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