Participation in a study abroad is a life-changing experience for many students. Taking part allows students to experience new cultures, gain a global perspective, and in many situations, alleviate ethnocentrism. It promotes intercultural communication, foreign languages, adaptability, and critical thinking skills. The desire to travel is more evident post-pandemic than in a 16-year career working with Study Abroad students. Before our students left for their summer Study Abroad experiences, I asked several of them for feedback.
The Quest for New Experiences
“There are several reasons why young adults travel so much more after COVID. For one, being locked up inside for a year, especially during our university years, has made students anxious to get out and see the world. Have a new experience. The media is also playing a big part in this. More people are posting their travels on social media, making students want to go to those places.
People also tend to see locations in movies and TV shows and want to go to those places (going to Paris because someone watched the show Emily in Paris). Lastly, my generation desires to get out of the system. They want to work at something other than the typical 9-5 jobs. They want to get out and see the world, and with the ability to make money online, traveling and living unconventional lives are becoming much more accessible to everyone. All these things are causing my generation to travel much more than any other.“
“I chose to go on Study Abroad as I had always hoped to travel outside the U.S., but the opportunity never came up. This program allowed me to see most of the places I wanted but took away the stress of planning and booking everything as I had yet to learn how to do any of that, having never traveled to Europe. I was even more motivated to go after COVID-19, and I started to worry that I would never be able to travel the way I wanted. I wanted to take any opportunity to go on the trips I always wanted before another possible problem or pandemic prevented me.“
Rediscovering Educational Opportunities Abroad
For countless students, stepping outside the traditional classroom into a new culture helps them kindle their desire to learn. It separates them from their peers. Our unofficial motto at Brigham Young University is, “The World is our Campus.” We encourage our students to take advantage of the myriad of opportunities offered.
One of our students told me the following:
“My strong desire to learn about new things inspires me to study abroad. I love learning about foreign places, cultures, and people. I love traveling and working towards my degree at the same time. Social media has also impacted my enthusiasm to travel and study. With the technology available today, I have more access to content on travel than any generation before me. I have seen many places worldwide on my phone, motivating me to participate and see it myself.“
“I wanted to go on Study abroad because I knew experiencing the culture and the language would give me firsthand experience. Only through studying abroad could I improve my language skills and develop a different perspective of a new culture.“
Several of the motivating factors for students studying abroad post-pandemic are related to the term “you do not know what you have got ’til it has gone”. Pre-pandemic traveling was popular, but many kept putting off these opportunities because they figured they would someday. When travel was highly restricted during the pandemic, many people realized that traveling is not always guaranteed. Many people felt trapped when they knew they could not travel internationally, so when travel resumed, a new mindset took over students.
“I should take this opportunity to travel while I can. I think we are all more grateful to go abroad and see the world!”
As Study Abroad reemerges post Covid the demand for opportunities has returned. We live in a very interconnected world, and students understand how important it is to expand their horizons.