As a working community college student, Lemuel Sun didn’t have the luxury to spend an entire semester abroad.
But when he heard his school, Maryland’s Howard Community College, was offering a two-week study abroad experience in China, he jumped at the chance. He wanted to see his parents’ home country and brush up on his language skills.
A few months later, after he transferred to the University of Maryland—Baltimore County, he pursued a Chinese minor alongside his computer science major. “I definitely did see firsthand the importance of knowing a second language and reconnecting with my culture,” he says.
Sun is one of the thousands of community college students increasingly choosing to study oversees, according to data collected by the Institute of International Education. In 2011-2012, the most recent year for which data was available, 5,236 community college students elected to study abroad – a 13 percent increase from the year before.
“That’s a pretty significant increase and it’s very exciting,” says Daniel Obst, deputy vice president of international partnerships at the institute. For the 10 years leading up to that point, the number of community college students studying abroad remained flat, he says.
Community college students have traditionally faced hurdles that have made it harder for them to study abroad, Obst says. Many are juggling school with family and work responsibilities. The cost of studying overseas is also an issue, he says, as well as the fact that for many years, community colleges were slow to create study abroad programs. . . . .