Is it the end of an era for studying abroad?

Published 2021-05-13 17:39:50
Photo by Genine Alyssa Pedreno-Andrada from Pexels

In the past year, universities across the globe have tried to adapt to the new situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, by moving classes online and adjusting application processes as well as exams, in the hope that they won't lose current and prospective students.

Lack of support for foreign students during the pandemic

Universities worldwide have been going through a difficult year since the beginning of the pandemic. Many of them were not prepared to face a situation where everything would be out of place and out of order. The biggest concern has been not to lose students, as campus life became an undesirable and sometimes impossible option. Some of the measures undertaken by universities in order to keep their students include:

  • Switching to online courses
  • Conducting language tests in order to assess the level of understanding of foreign students
  • Delaying the start dates for some of the courses
  • Deferring some of the 2020 offers to 2021
  • Changing the acceptance deadlines

QS has conducted a survey with 312 international students who are studying at overseas universities across the globe, including the United Kingdom (13%), Australia (11%), the United States (6%), Canada (5%), India (5%), Russia (5%), Mainland China (5%), Germany (4%), Italy (4%), and France (3%), among others.

How effective do you think your university has been in supporting international students during the outbreak of the coronavirus? - Credit: QS study

23 % of the interviewed students were not happy with the support they received from their universities since the coronavirus pandemic has started. Some of them were hoping for more information about traveling from one country to another, while others were expecting financial support during this crisis.

"No jobs, financial hardship was extreme, and help received is almost zero... Very sad time for international students" was the response of a student, when asked about the support he received from the overseas university where he is studying.

"They did not open campus at all, and they will not support our continued stay in the country by providing letters/support to international students; also, they removed our scholarships/funding because the campus is closed. said one of the interviewed students.

Another unhappy student said: "They don't give us any information about the precautions that need to be taken in order to enter the country. I still did not travel to study because of the difficulties in both my country and the country where my university is. Even though most of the universities have online classes; mine does not because they just don't care about international students."

However, the results show that almost half of the international students that have been interviewed were happy with the support they got from their university. One of them answered for the survey:

"My university provided food/nutrition packages every few weeks for all students, converted to online education, raised awareness, did temperature checking at all buildings, and said there was no entry without a mask."

Universities show difficulties to adapt to the situation

As far as prospective students are concerned, the future doesn't look bright. Since the pandemic has started, most of the universities worldwide have encountered great difficulty in dealing with it, and adapting to the new situation. The number of international applicants has dropped and most of the young people that were planning to study overseas are facing confusion right now, as they are not so sure that studying abroad is the best option anymore.

The survey has also interviewed 2,689 young people who are planning to study overseas, with a range of nationalities, including 22% from India, 6% from the US, 5% from Pakistan, 5% from Nigeria, 3% from the UK, 3% from Bangladesh, 2% from Canada, and others. 69% of them said that the coronavirus had affected their plans to study abroad.

Did your current university offer you any of the following incentives to encourage you to study overseas? - Credit: QS study

Has the gap year disappeared?

According to a 2015 alumni survey conducted by the Gap Year Association and Temple University, people who took a gap year on average said the time off helped them develop as a person and acquire skills to be successful in their careers. The gap year was previously used to travel abroad, get international experience in living and working in another country. Respondants to the survey also said it gave them a greater understanding of other cultures, and made them see themselves as global citizens.

But 2020 and 2021 have cancelled all the projects to move abroad for gap-year students. On the other hand, the current pandemic has proved to be a better time than ever for some young people to take a break from studying. Although the prospect of traveling is clouded by all the safety restrictions, a gap year could have been the answer for some.

Gap Year Association is a non-profit that focuses on gap year advice, opportunities, and research. Ethan Knight, the executive director of the non-profit is quoted in an article by Next Advisor:

"Broadly speaking, I've seen data that says we might expect 400.000 youth taking a gap year this year. And normally, we see close to 40.000."

The association offers a number of accredited gap year programs available worldwide. The accreditation represents a commitment to the highest standards in safety, quality, and integrity, assuring the student of an experience with the highest caliber of field leadership, the best degree of office support, and the highest standards of safety.

Restrictions for work holiday visas

Another way for young people to spend a year away from home is to get a work holiday visa (WHV), and work in another country until they figure out what to do next. This is also a good way for them to save some money for their education.

Most countries offer such visas under reciprocal agreements between themselves, encouraging travel and the exchange of culture between their citizens.

For example, France offers a working holiday visa with a maximum duration of 12 Months for people aged 18 to 30 (35 for Canadians, 31 for Australians) The accepted countries are Uruguay, Taiwan, Russia, Mexico, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Colombia, Chile, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Australia.

The requirements for each scheme vary between countries but are often quite similar. A complete list of the countries who offer working holiday visas can be found in an article by Global Goose.

Check the specific restrictions due to the pandemic

The WHV season for 2021 is very special with the restrictions put in place against the Covid around the world. For example, Canada, a major provider of WHV, announced that "only International Experience Canada (IEC) participants with a port of entry letter of introduction and a valid job offer are eligible to travel to Canada right now. "

The situation isn't going pink for youngsters these days, still there are many options available whether they are determined to pursue higher education or to spend a year working abroad and discovering a new culture.

Share your experience, participate in the discussion and leave comments in our forum HERE.

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Author: Oana Tamas
I am passionate about life. Nature, people, art and everything that is making its magic on this beautiful planet, is worth our attention. I believe that communication is the key of life and wellbeing and I am a content writer for

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