The College of Charleston is, of course, world class. But it’s the College’s classes around the world that have recently earned the institution accolades for its International Education programs.

The Institute of International Education (IIE) has ranked CofC as the No. 4 institution in the United States among the top 40 master’s level colleges and universities for the total number of study abroad participants for the 2014-2015 academic year. A total of 948 Cougars studied abroad that year. The College rose two spots from the previous academic year when 930 students studied abroad. The IIE also recently awarded the College its Seal of Excellence for CofC’s “demonstrated commitment to making study abroad available to more U.S. students.”

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“The Institute of International Education rankings is the gold standard for success in study abroad and a recognition highly aspired to by universities and colleges,” says Andrew Sobiesuo, the College’s associate provost for International Education.

Sobiesuo credits the efforts of faculty and staff in recent years for the growth and success of the College’s study abroad programs. CofC offers study abroad opportunities for fall, spring and summer semesters either through the College, exchange programs or affiliate programs. And students can choose from a myriad of countries in which to study, including France, Chile, Spain, Germany, Japan, Estonia and Italy – just to name a few.

Reilly Kilpatrick spent the fall 2016 semester in Santiago, Chile.

“The availability of a wide variety of programs – especially in the past 10 years – and the financial commitment of the College in the form of scholarships have significantly impacted how students perceive and embrace study abroad at this institution,” Sobiesuo says.

That’s certainly the case for junior Reilly Kilpatrick and senior Brandon Phillips, both of whom were eager to study outside the United States.

Kilpatrick, who just completed a fall semester abroad in Santiago, Chile, describes her experience with the College’s study abroad program as “one of the best decisions I have made in my relatively short life.” As a double major in biology and international studies, Kilpatrick was thrilled at the opportunities to improve her Spanish and take in life from the perspective of another culture.

“It’s a great feeling when you begin to develop a sense of humor in another language, when you can empathize in Spanish,” she says.

Similarly, Phillips, who is halfway through an entire academic year studying in Ludwigshafen, Germany, says he wanted to “expose myself to new cultures and meet new people from international backgrounds.”

Brandon Phillips has been able to visit many European countries while studying abroad in Germany.

Taking advantage of Germany’s close proximity to other countries, Phillips has already visited five other countries as well as the iconic European cities of Berlin, Paris and Prague. The German and business administration double major says his language skills have greatly improved in his four months abroad, and he’s getting a broader picture of the world with each excursion he takes.

“Studying abroad has been a rewarding experience so far, and I look forward to what else this journey holds for me,” Phillips says.

RELATED: Read about Kilpatrick’s time in Chile on her blog and Phillips’ adventures in Germany on his blog.

Sobiesuo says that’s the point of Study Abroad programs – to give students the opportunity to think on a global scale through real world experiences.

“A student who participates in a study abroad program gains knowledge and skills that cannot be imparted in a classroom and is better equipped and empowered to address major challenges as a citizen of the world,” he says.