study abroad programmes
72% of over 200 US students in higher education institutions have expressed interest in pursuing study abroad programmes. Source: Ina Fassbender/AFP

Nearly three-quarters (72%)of university students want to join study abroad programmes, a new survey has found, a spiking figure that surpasses pre-pandemic demand.

Close to two-thirds (60%) plan to pursue a semester abroad in spring 2023, data from edtech provider Terra Dotta found.

“This year’s survey confirmed that we are back to a familiar pre-COVID-19 study abroad landscape,” Terra Dotta’s CEO, Anthony Rotoli, told The PIE News.

By summer 2021, the Institute for International Education reported a 523% increase in US college students going abroad, with 83% of schools expecting an increase in the 2022-23 academic year.

Only 14,549 students went abroad in 2020-21 — a 91% decline compared to 162,633 in the 2019-20 academic year, according to a 2022 Open Doors Report data. 

“Students are eager to travel – even more so given the pandemic’s impact on travel and other milestones they may have missed out on – but cost and accessibility are limiting factors,” Rotoli shared.

Why are US students choosing study abroad programmes?

study abroad programmes

Many Americans want to join study abroad programmes but can’t afford them. Source: Frederic J. Brown/AFP

Americans want to study abroad for two main reasons: personal growth and a desire to travel.

According to the survey, “students feel studying abroad will give them unique, world perspectives and exposures they would not have if they didn’t participate.” 

The most popular destination is Western Europe.

While there is demand, many Americans are held back by the cost of studying abroad, which averages US$16,368 per semester in 2023, according to a recent sruvey.

“The survey reveals a real need for more financial support and programme education to impart the long-term career readiness value for potential student travellers,” Rotoli said.

Students would like their institutions to tell them more about financial aid for study abroad opportunities via email, websites, or through in-person meetings with professors.

What else is keeping Americans from study abroad programmes?

study abroad programmes

Most Americans feel they don’t get enough information about study abroad programmes. Source: Christina Assi/AFP

The need for earlier engagement was also a key finding in the survey, with 45% of students expressing that they became interested in the idea of studying abroad in high school.

In fact, 57% said it played a role in their college selection.

“Institutions that engage students and parents earlier in the student lifecycle have an opportunity to help grow the number of students who study abroad and ensure they have the resources to take advantage of this invaluable student success factor,” Rotoli suggests.