After more than two years of cancellations, international study programs are picking up again—almost everywhere.  

“College study abroad programs that existed in the past are being re-established, and students are very excited to go abroad again,” said John Morris, director of account management at Global Rescue. “People are champing at the bit to get back.” 

It makes sense, after so many dreams and educational opportunities were put on hold since the pandemic started, students are looking to return to the best international studies programs.  

According to The Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange, there was a 53% decrease in students studying abroad from the United States in 2020. 867 institutions reported that more than 55,000 U.S. students who studied abroad in 2019/2020 returned home early due to the pandemic. Students coming to the U.S. to study were also impacted: 99 percent of Intensive English Programs said that COVID-19 affected their program in 2020. 

But now things are bouncing back for colleges with international study programs. In the U.S., there has been an 83 percent uptick in study abroad numbers compared to last year, according to a study released by the Institute for International Education (IIE). For students coming into the U.S. for education, the report reveals that 65 percent of institutions have seen an increase in applications from international students.  

Europe’s Erasmus+ program has seen its highest numbers of enrollment ever.  

Who’s left out? Russia and China—two major hosts of study abroad programs in the past.  

Russia and China fall behind 

students sitting in class listening to lecturer

“Russia study abroad programs have closed indefinitely due to the war with Ukraine,” Morris said.  

In response, some universities are finding Russian language learning opportunities in nearby countries. Middlebury College recently launched its Russian language program in Kazakhstan, which is accepting applications for spring 2023.  

“This approach can also be difficult as tensions related to the war escalate across the surrounding region,” Morris said.  

In China, things are slowly—very slowly—opening back up. Before the pandemic nearly half a million foreign students were studying in China, 60 percent of them from Asian countries, according to China’s Ministry of Education. Since the pandemic hit, almost all programs have come to a halt, except for NYU Shanghai, students from South Korea, Tianjin Juilliard, some Schwarzman Scholarship students and 30 scholarship recipients from Nicaragua, according to an article in Study International. 

NYU Shanghai experienced a flood of applicants to its program, according to The PIE News, with the overall applicants increasing by 12 percent and the number of applicants outside the U.S. increasing by 53 percent—thousands of people competing to get across China’s border as one of 500 students with the program.  

This narrow group of programs has caused much consternation for those desiring to continue their education in China. According to Quartz, medical students who were studying in China or who planned to are now uncertain where they will complete their degrees, as China’s programs were relatively affordable.  

Yet, China has recently indicated that it will allow more students into its borders to study. Richard Coward, founder and CEO of higher education consultancy China Admissions, urged caution in a recent Inside Higher Ed article.  

“‘It’s a very positive sign, but we still need to be cautious,’ with students needing permission to return from their university and embassy, and mobility levels as yet ‘far from pre-COVID levels.’” 

In the meantime, as in Russia, students are looking to other countries for their education. For example, Taiwan has become a popular destination for those who want to learn Mandarin.  

COVID-19 Restrictions Remain 

student walking across campus wearing a facemask

For those studying abroad, things will look a little different as the world determines how to operate now that COVID-19 is endemic. There may be vaccine, testing or quarantine requirements. Nearly 81 percent of institutions surveyed by IIE shared that they will require vaccination for participation in the program, a large increase from last year when most institutions were considering a vaccine mandate but hadn’t put it in place. Whether or not students will be required to get the vaccine or participate in other restrictions depends on the policies of the sending university, study abroad partners or the country receiving the students.  

If you plan to study abroad, consider Global Rescue’s discounted student membership, which starts at $275/year. If you’re a parent sending your child to study abroad, why not buy it as a parting gift?  

They will have access to updates on restrictions, quarantines and hotspots; experts who can provide immediate information regarding appropriate nearby health care facilities all over the world, and emergency medical evacuation services to a hospital of choice.  

You will have peace of mind.