After a halt in travel and studying abroad due to COVID-19, many universities have reported an increase in study abroad participation this semester.
Studying abroad is an opportunity to pursue part of college studies in a foreign country, including taking classes, completing an international internship or participating in a research project. The University of Colorado Boulder Education Abroad Department offers 400 study abroad programs in 70 countries, with many courses available that are not accessible at CU Boulder.
According to the CU Boulder Education Abroad Participation resource, 1,086 CU Boulder students studied abroad in 2020, which includes those who were abroad when the pandemic began. In 2021, the numbers declined to only 270 students.
So far in 2022, 1,592 students have studied abroad, with numbers from fall 2022 and winter 2022-2023 still to come. The 2022 participation already surpasses the 1,505 students who studied abroad in 2019 and is the highest participation at CU Boulder as far as the data goes back to 2012.
“I think a lot of the participation increase is due to the world reopening after everything that has happened with COVID,” said Education Abroad Program Manager Kelsey Mark. “We are now able to manage [COVID] better, and almost all countries are open to having abroad students now.”
The dramatic increase in participation could also be due to a built-up demand after the pandemic had essentially blocked off studying abroad because of travel restrictions. Mark said that the Education Abroad department is glad to see students making use of the reopening borders as the participation continues to increase through 2022.
Gwen King, a senior studying abroad in Australia who also traveled to Thailand, is eager to make the most of her travels in her senior year.
“I decided to study abroad this semester because I am graduating soon,” said King. “Studying abroad is something that I have always wanted to do as a part of my college experience, but I wasn’t able to any other year because of borders closing due to COVID.”
Mark said that studying abroad is an opportunity to experience what life is like in different places where students get to immerse themselves in a new country and build skills to communicate with people from different cultures.
“The benefits of studying abroad are different for every student, but it comes down to personal growth and goals,” said Mark. “Being immersed in a different culture and experiencing that life as a college student is irreplaceable.” She also said that a lot of students use their study abroad experience to gain an advantage in the hiring process.
Junior Jeremy Mart, who is studying in a variety of countries this year, including Bali, Thailand, Singapore and Australia, said, “So far, the abroad experience has been amazing. I love learning about different cultures and people, and this was the perfect opportunity for me to do that.”
Both King and Mart said they highly recommend studying abroad to anyone who has the chance. They said it gave them a perspective of what life is like outside of the U.S. and helped them grow on a personal level.
Although it is going to take her a semester longer to graduate, King said, “The experience of being completely immersed in another culture for an extended period of time is so valuable.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Addison Luetke at Addison.Luetke@colorado.edu.