William & Mary continues to rank fourth among public universities in the nation in study-abroad programs, according to the Open Doors 2022 Report on International Educational Exchange, released Nov. 14 by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education (IIE).

William & Mary also ranks fourth nationally for long-term study abroad participants among all doctoral-granting universities. William & Mary has consistently ranked highly, ranking first nine times over the last 14 years.

The Open Doors 2022 Report measured study abroad by U.S. students during the 2020/2021 academic year, a time when global mobility was largely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Data collected during the 2020/2021 academic year shows U.S. study abroad halted amid the pandemic to protect the global health and the safety of students in the United States and abroad. This is reflected in the total number of U.S. students studying abroad for academic credit, declining by 91% to 14,549 students.

The annual report represents a snapshot of study abroad participation as it relates to academic credit before graduation, rather than the numbers of students participating in programs during a given year. The percentages and ranking are calculated using IIE criteria. For instance, IIE does not include for consideration in their data international students who are studying abroad.

A group stands in front of a building that says Cavendish Laboratory
Students visit the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge. Since it was founded in 1874, the Cavendish Laboratory has been at the forefront of discovery in physics. Francis Crick had won several awards for his research when he met James Watson at the Cavendish Laboratory. They soon made their famous discovery of the DNA double helix in 1953. (Photo courtesy of Dana Lashley)

According to the current report, by IIE criteria, during the 2020/2021 academic year 94 William & Mary undergraduate students studied abroad for academic credit during their undergraduate careers. IIE calculates this to be a participation rate by time of graduation of 6.4%.

Before the pandemic, during the 2018/2019 academic year, by IIE criteria, 857 William & Mary undergraduate students studied abroad for academic credit, a 55% participation rate by time of graduation per IIE’s calculation.

“While the rankings are no doubt significant, William & Mary remains among the national leaders in study abroad in terms of the quality of the experience as well as the number of participants,” said Teresa Longo, Associate Provost for International Affairs. “Together with our partners abroad, William & Mary has invested in global experiences tied to academic excellence, career readiness, and to our students’ understanding of their place in the world.”

William & Mary’s Reves Center for International Studies offers students a diverse selection of study-abroad opportunities through the Global Education Office (GEO), including more than $700,000 annually for study-abroad scholarships as one of many efforts to reduce financial barriers. Students receive support, information, resources and guidance on various study-abroad programs and international university exchanges through GEO, which also provides workshops, peer advising and re-entry assistance for students returning from their study-abroad experience.

“Thanks to our wonderful international partners who hosted our students in the midst of the pandemic, the exceptional work of the Reves and GEO teams, and broad university support for international education, we were grateful to create sustained, safe, and meaningful study abroad opportunities for students even in 2020/21,” said Sylvia Mitterndorfer, director of the Global Education Office and director of global partnerships for the Reves Center. “In addition to the study abroad students counted in Open Doors, we worked with many international students who were unable to return to the U.S. to develop opportunities abroad together with extraordinarily supportive global partners. As we emerge from the early phases of the pandemic and return to pre-pandemic participation levels, we continually enhance study abroad opportunities with an emphasis on accessibility, DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion), sustainability and career readiness. Since 2020/21, there has been a tremendous resurgence in interest from students for international opportunities and enduring strong support from our faculty and university community for making study abroad possible and accessible.”

Early indications nationally are that demand for international study remains high, and more students will return to study abroad programs in the coming years. The Open Doors report shows U.S. institutions reported a 523% increase in students going abroad in summer 2021, with 58% of all American students in 2020/21 choosing to study abroad in the summer. According to IIE’s Spring 2022 Snapshot, 83% of institutions noted an increase in study abroad numbers for 2022/2023 compared to the previous year.

Lee Satterfield, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs applauded the trend: “Study abroad is of strategic importance, as we prepare American students to compete in an increasingly interconnected world.”

International student numbers rebounding in the U.S.

The Open Doors report also found that 948,519 international students from more than 200 places of origin studied at U.S. higher education institutions during the 2021/2022 academic year, a 4% increase compared to the previous academic year. The report shows a strong year-over-year rebound in new international student enrollments (an increase of 80%) in the United States following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrates the United States’ ongoing commitment to international educational exchange.

The Open Doors data is evidence of the strong interest among international students to travel to the United States, the top destination for international students worldwide, and pursue their studies in person. 90% of enrolled international students have returned to in-person learning across U.S. campuses. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international students contributed $32 billion to the U.S. economy in 2021.

“The incredible rebound we have seen in international student mobility demonstrates the United States’ and its higher education institutions’ unwavering commitment to welcoming students from around the world,” said IIE CEO Allan E. Goodman. “The Open Doors 2022 report emphasizes that, despite the complexity and uncertainty that accompany pandemics, international educational exchanges continue. Investment in international exchange remains the best way for educational institutions and countries to connect people and ideas around the world.”

The International Students, Scholars & Programs (ISSP) office at the Reves Center interacts with more than 800 students, scholars, alumni and dependents annually. William & Mary currently has close to 600 international students enrolled, both graduate and undergraduate students, across multiple disciplines and professional schools. They represent more than 55 countries.

Eva Wong, director of International Students, Scholars and Programs (ISSP) at the Reves Center, notes that the significance of an international academic community lies at the core of the mission of William & Mary.

“A university cannot be truly global without a diverse community of students, scholars, faculty and staff. Exchange of ideas and being exposed to new ways of thinking make our university more dynamic for all students,” said Eva Wong, director of international students, scholars and programs. “I am confident that we will continue to be a welcoming community and be innovative in expanding our global reach.”

The impact of W&M’s global community also has an economic impact on the region. According to data from NAFSA: Association of International Educators, international students and scholars at William & Mary in 2021/2022 had a $31.6 million impact on the 2nd U.S. Congressional District’s economy, supporting 381 jobs.

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