29% of College Students Say COVID-19 Canceled Their Study Abroad Plans

More than half of students say they plan to prioritize travel in the near term.

July 28, 2022 · Updated on July 28, 2022

29% of College Students Say COVID-19 Canceled Their Study Abroad Plans
Survey Reports
Photo by martin-dm / E+ / Getty Images

  • Half of college students who studied abroad say they wanted to discover another culture.
  • 63% of students say they have used or will use their own income to pay for travel.
  • 49% of students say they believe studying abroad is only feasible for the privileged.

College students are still feeling the impacts of the pandemic on their educational plans. In a new BestColleges survey of 1,000 currently enrolled undergraduate students, 29% say they had plans to study abroad but were unable to due to circumstances caused by COVID-19.

Of the students who did study abroad or had previously planned to, half say one of their goals for doing so was to discover another culture (50%).

Other top goals included to develop an expanded view of the world (45%) and to meet people and develop a global network (45%).

Out of those who have studied abroad (16% of all respondents), just under a quarter say that they were able to achieve their goals of discovering another culture (23%) or visiting a place they were unlikely to otherwise (23%) during their travel experience. These students advise anyone else planning to study abroad to, "make sure [they] understand the financial ramifications of choosing [to study abroad]" before accepting the program, "apply early," "take as many risks as you can," and "hustle hard everyday."

White students who have studied abroad or had plans to are more likely than BIPOC students to say one of their goals for studying abroad was to develop an expanded view of the world (51% vs. 39%), discover a new culture (57% vs. 43%), or visit a place they were unlikely to otherwise (46% vs. 36%). BIPOC students' top goals for studying abroad are to meet people abroad and develop a global network (45%), to discover another culture (43%), and self discovery/development of life skills (42%).

Students who have at least one parent with a college degree are significantly more likely than first-generation students to say one of their goals for studying abroad is self-discovery/development of life skills (55% vs. 35%), to discover a new culture (60% vs. 43%), or to develop an expanded worldview (52% vs. 41%).

Cost Is Top Reason Not to Study Abroad

Of the 71% of students who did not have plans to study abroad, 52% say one of the reasons was cost. This comes as no surprise, as 73% of college students agree that studying abroad is expensive and 49% believe it is only feasible for the privileged.

While one-third (33%) of those without study abroad plans say their reason for not participating is a lack of desire, one-quarter (25%) have concerns about language barriers, and another quarter (25%) say obligations at home are deterring them. Over 1 in 5 (21%) say concerns about COVID-19 or other health-related issues are why they have not or will not study abroad.

White students who had no plans to study abroad are significantly more likely than BIPOC students to say cost is one of their reasons for not studying abroad (57% vs. 46%). They are also significantly more likely to say obligations at home are one of their reasons for not studying abroad (30% vs. 19%).

Students who have at least one parent with a college degree and no plans to study abroad are significantly more likely than first-generation college students with no study abroad plans to say lack of desire is their reason for not participating (37% vs. 27%).

Most Students Want to Travel During School Outside of Study Abroad Programs

Sixty percent of students say they have a desire to travel during college outside of study abroad programs offered through their school. The majority of these students say they will travel with or hope to travel with friends (76%) while just under half (49%) say they will or hope to travel with family.

About a third of students (32%) who desire to travel during college outside of programs offered by their school say they will or hope to travel solo.

BIPOC students who desire to travel during college outside of programs offered by their school are significantly more likely than white students to say they will or hope to travel alone or with colleagues for work-related travel (26% vs. 17%).

Students who have at least one parent with a college degree and desire to travel during college outside of a study abroad program are significantly more likely than first-generation students who want to travel during college to say they will or hope to travel with friends (86% vs. 67%) or family (55% vs. 44%).

Female students who desire to travel during college outside of programs offered by their school are significantly more likely than male students to say they will or hope to travel with family (54% vs. 42%). They are also more likely to say they will or hope to travel with friends (80% vs. 71%).

Male students, on the other hand, are more likely than female students to say they will or hope to travel solo (37% vs. 28%).

Majority of Students Pay for Travel Using Their Own Income

The majority of students who desire to travel during college outside of programs offered by their school say they will use or have used income from their job to pay for their travel (63%). About a third of students (32%) with the desire to travel say they will use or have used money from their parents or guardian(s) to pay for travel.

White students who desire to travel during college outside of programs offered by their school are more likely than BIPOC students to say they will use or have used money from their job (67% vs. 59%) or from their parents or guardian(s) (36% vs. 27%) to pay for travel during school.

Students who have at least one parent with a college degree are significantly more likely than first-generation college students to say they will use or have used money from their parents or guardian(s) to pay for travel during school (40% vs. 25%).

Students Believe It's Important to Budget for Travel

Due to the expense of traveling abroad and the value college students see in experiencing travel, it's no surprise that nearly three quarters say budgeting for travel is important to them (72%).

Over half of students (51%) say they plan to prioritize traveling in the near term after college.

The majority of students who plan to prioritize traveling in the near term will use income for their job to pay for travel (72%). Over a quarter will use money from gifts to pay for travel (28%).

Much like students who have no plans to formally study abroad, most students who do not plan to prioritize travel in the near term say the reason is due to cost (60%). Still, two-thirds of all surveyed students say that the experience of traveling is worth the expense (66%).

Just over 1 in 4 students (28%) additionally say obligations at home are why they do not want to travel in the near term.

Overall, about 1 in 3 students have no interest in traveling or studying abroad. Meanwhile, others haven't allowed themselves to consider it due to the numerous barriers that may prevent them from traveling.

Methodology

The survey was conducted from May 31-June 3, 2022. Student respondents were fielded by Lucid LLC. Survey participants included 1,000 currently enrolled, first-time undergraduate students nationwide. Respondents were 18-26 years of age, enrolled at a college or university, and pursuing a bachelor's or associate degree. The respondents for the survey were screened by various quality checks, including systems like Relevant ID, and responses were manually reviewed to ensure consistency and accuracy.