Students Want to Resume Semester Abroad Programs

The number of U.S. college students wanting to study abroad is on pace to surpass 2019.

Like many programs, college study abroad programs were brought to a halt during the pandemic. However, new survey data indicates that students are ready to explore the world and experience different cultures again. For many students, a study abroad experience is a hallmark of their college years. It offers an opportunity to learn about another region of the world and to learn and appreciate new perspectives.

Broadening their studies with an international experience is of interest to 72% of survey respondents who hope or plan to study abroad. The top three majors represented by respondents were:

  • Business, management, marketing, and related support services
  • Health professions and related programs
  • Liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities

Although there are some lingering health concerns post-pandemic, students are eager to experience international education with most of them wanting a semester-long experience in a European country. Nearly all the respondents feel that study abroad is important for both personal and professional growth, and that it would give them a world perspective they wouldn’t have if they didn’t participate. 57% of respondents chose their college or university based on their study abroad programs.

Experience and Interest in Study Abroad by the Numbers

  • 88% have never studied abroad
  • 72% hope or plan to study abroad
  • 84% had a previous study abroad program canceled because of COVID
  • 88% are planning to apply to another program
  • 9% plan to travel in Summer 2023
  • 22% plan to travel in Fall 2023
  • 63% plan to travel in Spring 2023
  • 43% of students are motivated to try study abroad for personal growth
  • 36% of students are motivated because they love to travel
  • 7% want to prepare themselves for the global workforce

The top three barriers to students who want to study abroad are cost (84%), COVID (38%), and worried parents (31%).

Student Communication Preferences

Survey respondents said the best way for their college or university to promote information about study abroad programs were personal email (78%), website (66%), and professors (63%). For ongoing communication from the study abroad planning office, students prefer email (87%) and in-person (68%). For communication while they are in another country, students prefer email (89%) and texting (50%).

With the pandemic moving further into our past, the interest of college students in a semester abroad is approaching pre-pandemic levels. Although personal growth and love of travel are the top two motivations for semesters abroad, the desire to be active in the global economy will likely grow over time as education, industry, and commerce become more interlinked.

Financing a semester abroad is the largest impediment for students. If universities can subsidize study abroad programs through scholarships, sponsorships, or other means, more students who want to study abroad will be able to have that experience.