While each passing January sees thousands of students flocking from the classrooms of college to the cobblestones of Europe, new economic overhauls and global power shifts may cause a rise in students considering more Eastern locales. With the increased prevalence of budget airlines and top universities, we may see students saying goodbye to Stockholm and hello to Singapore.
The island of Singapore is approximately three times the size of Washington DC, and yet it is outpacing global superpowers by many economic indicators. With so much buzz around China eclipsing the USA as a world superpower, talented students around the world are gravitating toward Shanghai and Beijing to get their bite of the revolution. This shift eastward will result in longer flights and new horizons for Generation Y, but not necessarily an overhaul of the study abroad rhythm.
Singapore Airlines, Jetstar Asia, and SilkAir are just a few of the many budget carriers popping up in the region, transporting travelers from major airports to exotic hotspots. Imagine replacing weekend trips to Paris and London with three day jaunts to Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh. Students may be trading the Louvre for Angkor Wat, but the ease of exploration is just one way in which Southeast Asia is mimicking the climate that made Europe such a hot destination for the under-thirty.
Flights on Jetstar between Singapore and Phuket–one of the Thailand’s hottest party destinations in summer–generally fall under 100 USD roundtrip. Flights to Bali and other destinations so often seen as “too far” or “too expensive” become manageable weekend getaways and unforgettable cultural experiences.
But let’s not forget about the academics. The University of Hong Kong, Singapore National University, and China’s Tsinghua are proving themselves in a Western-dominated academic sphere as competitive research bodies. Many prominent American universities such as Rutgers are crediting students for their semesters in Asia, and providing them with an increased number of Asian language courses at home than ever before. With exchange rates more favorable between the US and Asia than the formidable Pound and Euro, students may even find a tuition and cost of living break.
Twenty-somethings are no strangers to Asia — but often their experiences are service-oriented, ranging from conservation projects to youth education. Pattaya, Thailand and Siem Reap, Cambodia are popular destinations for volunteers. While these are excellent, game-changing endeavors, they are no longer the only motivation for spending several months in the region. As corporations open new hubs in Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, the demand for talent in both internships and full-time programs will continue to rise. Students may find themselves logging priceless hours in the region that will add a whole new dimension to their resumes.
The stigma surrounding study abroad in Asia is still rather strong, leading RSJ to wonder what study abroad offices can do to reassure skeptical parents. Europe has always been perceived as a stable, safe, and paramount cultural experience. As economies boom and governments liberalize, Asia is outpacing Europe by many standards — and is presenting equally attractive abroad programs. If you’re not convinced quite yet, consider this: your new study break could be a coral reef dive in the Bail sea.