UT Austin students jump for joy on the waterfront in Shanghai, China

Summer 2022 Study Abroad Numbers Rebound to Pre-Pandemic Levels 

  • Jun 3, 2022
  • Education Abroad
  • Ellen Stader

As the Spring 2022 semester drew to a close, many students were understandably excited for graduation. Another group of students may be thrilled by a different opportunity: the easing of international travel restrictions, which will allow them to finally take long-awaited trips overseas to study abroad. 

For the past two summers, traveling to another country to study may have seemed like an elusive dream for students the world over. But finally, that dream can come true for thousands: The rate of Longhorns studying abroad for a Maymester or summer program has made an encouraging rebound to nearly pre-pandemic levels.  

Worldwide Quarantines Paused Study Abroad  

Heather Thompson, director of Education Abroad at Texas Global, said the low rates of study abroad in 2021 were due almost entirely to quarantine regulations.  

"Last summer, nearly all of our international locations still had quarantines in place,” explained Thompson. Because those weren’t resolved in time for May departures, only 217 students from The University of Texas at Austin were able to travel abroad last summer to study with faculty-led, affiliate, exchange, internship or independent studies programs. 

With quarantine periods internationally averaging 7-14 days, it’s easy to see why such a length of time in isolation would seem prohibitive for Maymester or summer program participants slated to spend only three to eight weeks in their host countries.  

“We had so much excitement,” continued Thompson, “but unfortunately, thousands of students interested in studying abroad couldn't go.”  

Study Abroad Rates Boom as Travel Restrictions Ease 

This year presents a much different story, one with an inspiring outcome: In May 2022, Education Abroad was reporting 1,500 students and counting—nearly seven times the 2021 number—scheduled to travel for formal study abroad programs during the summer.  

Thompson explained that as quarantine requirements dwindled across the globe, affiliate programs began to reopen. As soon as these opportunities arose, students flocked to sign up, driving up the enrollment numbers accordingly. 

For example, in faculty-led programs, rates have increased nearly tenfold from the past year. In 2021, only six programs led by UT faculty embarked from the United States; five went to Denmark and one to Mexico. By contrast, at least 54 faculty-led programs are expected to depart for a wide array of countries this year.   

New Trends Emerge from Shifting Numbers  

Some trends are appearing in the study abroad stats of the past year. Naturally, programs in countries with stable health and immigration requirements can host larger proportions of students, but Thompson was surprised to find some new countries pulling ahead in the rankings.  

For example, 2021 was the first time Spain did not host the greatest number of Longhorns studying abroad, likely due to a last-minute change in its visa requirements. Other countries stepped forward to partly fill the gap. Among the 142 students who studied on exchange in all of 2021, the largest groups numbered 24 in Korea and another 24 in Scotland. Korea also hosted eight of the year's nine summer exchanges.  

It was Denmark that made the strongest overall showing last summer, taking in 90 students total as UT engineering consolidated its faculty-led cohorts there from various other countries. Mitigated quarantine regulations and expanded student capacity at DIS Copenhagen deepened an already-promising partnership between UT Austin and its Danish partners.  

A similar story played out in other countries, among them Scotland, Ireland and Korea. UT Austin has maintained strong connections in Scotland and Ireland, with partnerships there that can accommodate large volumes of students. But Korea saw the most substantial growth in visiting Longhorns in 2021, as Korea University and others hosted an unprecedented number of UT Austin students.  

“The rise of study abroad numbers in Korea has to do with the strength of our partnerships there,” said Thompson. “Three strong, longstanding partners took many of our students when they couldn't get into other countries.”  

She also sees new alumni networks emerging as a result of the recent years’ changes. “This will have a marked impact on alumni networks. UT has always had a huge network in Europe, but the one in that’s exploding now in Korea will be felt in the world of study abroad for decades to come.” 

These new developments represent an auspicious expansion of UT Austin’s relationships in numerous parts of the world, which can augment the university’s capacity to serve student populations and further support its mission of expanding engagement with international education.  

Hope for the Future of Education Abroad  

The numbers continue to look promising for education abroad activities in the upcoming school year, as well. Registrations for Fall 2022 exchange programs already match the number of participants who studied on exchange in Fall 2019. Signs point to a banner year of enrollment for the many other types of study abroad, as well.  

Historically, UT Austin has boasted the No. 3 highest education abroad participation in the United States. The university remains committed to providing opportunities for generations of students who plan to explore the world and learn just how much it has to offer. Texas Global congratulates all the students departing for far-flung adventures in education abroad. 

Visit the Education Abroad site to explore the many different opportunities UT Austin offers to learn, research, intern and serve around the world.