More US students choosing Chile for their studies abroad

Chile has seen a rise in popularity of nearly 30 percent as a study-abroad destination for American university students, the third-largest increase of any nation worldwide.

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The number of young Americans studying in Chile has increased by 28 percent, according to a report released on Nov. 15 by the US-based Institute of International Education (IIE) comparing 2008 – 2009 to the previous academic year.

This is the second-largest increase in Latin America and the third-largest around the world, after Peru, up 32 percent, and South Korea, up 29 percent.

Chile now ranks as the fourth-most popular Latin American country for American students to visit, despite being one of the furthest away from the US.

The report, entitled ‘Open Doors 2010’, records 3,503 students coming to the country during the 2008 – 2009 academic year. Chile follows neighbouring country Mexico in first place, Costa Rica in second and Argentina in third.

Lower living costs and a wide range of study subjects are factors attracting US students to less traditional destinations, said vice-president of the IEE, Peggy Blumenthal, in an article by the Canadian Press. She also noted that rising levels of English in many countries is opening up more options for US students.

“I choose to study in Chile because it seemed so welcoming,” said American student Dustin Zarnikow, who is studying Chilean Culture and Photography at the Universidad Católica in Santiago as part of his Global Communications degree at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

“I wanted to avoid the traditional European study-abroad program and experience Latin American culture,” he said. “I researched several countries in Latin America but Chile had the most intriguing culture and the greatest geographic diversity.”

It has been an excellent experience, he said, mentioning one memory in particular that stood out as an example of the real Chile.

“I made a trip with some friends to Pomaire, southwest of Santiago, and we arrived in the town with no fixed plans and nowhere to stay.

“We got talking to a family in the main square and they invited us to stay with them – welcomed us into their home, gave us a bed and a place to sleep.

“It was fantastic – a really intimate experience of Chilean culture.”