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New study abroad spot: India

Posted by: Jenna Ross Updated: November 16, 2011 - 5:34 PM

A new national report notes big growth in a less popular study abroad spot: India.

The number of U.S. students picking India rose 44.4 percent from 2008-09 to 2009-10, according to the annual "Open Doors" report by the Institute of International Education.

The total number is still small, comparatively. The top three destinations were the United Kingdom, with 12.1 percent of total; Italy, with 10.3 percent; and Spain, with 9.4 percent.

India ranks 14th, with 1.4 percent.

For the first time, St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict offered a semester in Kolkata, India.

"It's an area less traveled to, but in recent years has gained a lot of momentum," said Peggy Retka, director of the schools' Office for Education Abroad. (The first program's participants went last spring, and thus will be counted in the next "Open Doors" report, as it lags.)

Senior Danny Elenz was part of the first group.

Three of his roommates did the London program. But Elenz wanted a challenge, he said, and signed up for Kolkata. “It was about as different as you can get from Central Minnesota," he said. "They loved it there [in London], but we had very, very different experiences."

Elenz was shocked by the poverty, the huge population, the hospitality, the public transportation. His "wonderful, welcoming" host family spoke English. He spoke no Bengali.

But the most difficult transition, Elenz said, was returning home.

"I was so adapted to Indian life," he said. "I brought back everything I had seen there, and saw Minnesota in a new light."

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