A dozen trendy places to study abroad [SLIDESHOW]

Spending a semester — or a year — in some place far flung is so easy for undergraduates that it seems practically like a requirement these days.

There are nearly 200 countries in the world, of course, which means the path less traveled by is a very viable option. You could spend a semester in Oman, just for example, or Sri Lanka. You can even go to Antarctica.

Following the crowds is always fine, too. The United Kingdom will probably always be in vogue. It’s also hard to imagine a few other places, such as France and Australia, falling too far out of fashion.

The rest of the sovereign nations on the planet wax and wane in popularity among American students based on God only knows what factors.

Here’s a slideshow of the 12 trendiest destinations to study abroad, according to recent data from the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors Report. These locales aren’t necessarily the most popular; they are the ones that have seen the largest annual increases in academic tourism among American students studying abroad.

Click an image below for larger version.
  • The Netherlands is very flat, partially below sea level, notoriously tolerant and full of tall, blonde people. Amsterdam, with its coffee shops and canals, is the big draw for most students, but other cities have quite a bit to offer as well. Holland is up 4.1 percent in the 2011 IIE rankings. Photo - public domain
  • Study abroad increased in China by 4.9 in 2011. China is a dizzying array of contradictions: rich and poor, urban and rural, ultra-modern and seriously underdeveloped. It’s also gargantuan -- in both population and acreage -- and, therefore, pretty much impossible to summarize. Photo - Creative Commons/http2007
  • If you like picturesque colonial towns (and don’t mind often searing heat), Ecuador is the country for you. It’s hard to beat Quito’s vibrant Old Town or Cuenca’s city center for colorful, Spanish Baroque-influenced beauty. Ecuador’s popularity increased five percent in 2011 among student tourists.  Photo - Creative Commons/Alex Proimos
  • Chile, up 5.3 percent in 2011, is an outdoor lover’s paradise that offers ski slopes, a desert and the stunning arctic wonderland that is Patagonia. (There’s also Easter Island.) For students who are feeling more urban-inclined, Santiago and Valparaiso offer plenty of nighttime adventures. Photo - public domain
  • Germany has had its ups and downs. Right now, though, things are looking very good. The country is a political and economic dynamo with a rich cultural milieu and tons to see and do. In 2011, study abroad by Americans increased in Germany by 5.5. Photo - Facebook/Munich Oktoberfest
  • From art to wine to cafe culture to great espresso, Italy has perfected it all. The entire country is rife with beauty. Even the language sounds pretty. No wonder, then, that the country is up 8.7 percent this year and a perennial favorite among American students looking to get away for awhile. Photo - Creative Commons/Scott Raymond
  • Israel -- up 9.4 percent in the most recent IIE rankings -- is roughly the size of New Jersey, but it’s got substantially more going for it in terms of culture, history and just about everything else. Since Israel is home to sacred sites for three of the world’s major faiths, there are few better places to study religion or archaeology. Photo - Creative Commons/Wayne McLean
  • Had you asked us to guess before seeing this list, Denmark would be nowhere near the top. Nevertheless, here it is at No. 5, up 11.2 percent. The Danes have an educational system that is the envy of the world. Virtually everybody speaks English, too, and many universities offer coursework in English. Photo - Creative Commons/Emilio Corvino
  • Speaking of huge countries that have it all, India is a country of over 1.2 billion souls (many of them possibly reincarnated) and a population and culture so diverse that it’s absurd to try to sum it up here. India has seen an 11.9 percent spike in popularity among academic tourists. Photo - Creative Commons/amaldla
  • Brazil is up 12.5 percent in the most recent IIE rankings. It’s a huge country that has it all: gorgeous beaches, world-renowned festivals filled with drunken revelry, postcard-perfect colonial towns and captivating landscapes. Photo - Creative Commons/Mariordo
  • Study abroad increased in Costa Rica by 15.5 in 2011, perhaps because, as Lonely Planet notes, it’s the Switzerland of Central America thanks to a laidback culture, a stable democracy and breathtaking natural beauty practically everywhere. Photo - Creative Commons/Peter Andersen
  • The percentage of students heading to South Korea -- or, if you like, the Republic of Korea – was up 16.4 percent in 2011. You have to think a good chunk of those students did their coursework in Seoul, where shopping of all kinds, kimchi and, of course, Gangnam style reign supreme. Photo - Creative Commons/Patriotmissile

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