Published: Nov. 17, 2023

The release of the latest Open Doors Report, which provides data on study abroad participation nationally, reveals how eager CU students are to study abroad.

During the 2021–22 academic year, 1,987 CU Boulder students earned credit through study abroad programs, matching pre-pandemic participation. Issued annually by the Institute of International Education (IIE), the report this year ranks CU Boulder fifth nationally for sending students abroad on semester-length programs, up from eighth in 2020–21, and 10th nationally for institutions awarding credit for study abroad, up from 16th in 2020–21.

By the numbers

  • 427 students 2022–23
  • 349 students 2021–22
  • 88 students 2020–21
  • 15 students 2019–20
  • 240 students 2018–19

Numbers reflect participation in CU's Global Seminars, which are short-term faculty led program with a specific academic focus. They provide a small group experience allowing CU students and CU faculty to build strong connections while augmenting their global competence. They offer an international experience for students who cannot study abroad during the academic year.

“CU Boulder students are curious, adventurous and committed to global issues and intercultural understanding,” said Sylvie Burnet-Jones, director of Education Abroad. “That mindset is a natural fit for study abroad, and we are excited to see that students are eager to explore the world and gain global perspectives as part of their CU education.”

These numbers serve in sharp contrast to participation in the previous two reporting years, which covered academic years in 2020 and 2021, when international travel was severely restricted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In January 2020, CU Boulder’s Education Abroad office was celebrating the successful start of the spring 2020 semester, which was the largest CU student cohort to go abroad in a single term at CU Boulder. By March 2020, however, staff were scrambling to bring everyone home, and Education Abroad suspended the rest of its international programs in 2020. 

Then, in spring 2021, Education Abroad began carefully reopening its programs. Initial numbers were modest, with only 73 students studying abroad that spring. In summer 2021, however, student interest more than doubled. 

“After summer 2021, student participation felt almost like ‘business as usual,’” noted Michal Greenberg, assistant director of Education Abroad. “We couldn’t believe how quickly student interest rebounded.”

Students receive significant support from Education Abroad and its program partners, making the process of living in a different country and taking classes away from CU more streamlined and navigable. The Education Abroad team provides students with advising, pre-departure support, scholarships, health and safety oversight, guidance on how credit earned abroad will fulfill CU degree requirements and support while abroad.

The most popular destinations for CU Boulder students in 2021–22 were in Western Europe, with Spain and Italy attracting the most students. “Europe was one of the first regions to reopen study abroad programs, so the interest in Europe has become even more popular as word-of-mouth about those programs has been passed along among students,” Burnet-Jones noted.

“But we partner with hundreds of programs and universities to give our students high-quality opportunities around the globe, including Latin America, Asia, Africa and more.”

Education Abroad is also seeing increased interest from students in their faculty-led Global Seminars. These are programs that typically run in the summer and are led by CU Boulder faculty members, teaching 10-25 CU Boulder students and incorporating local sites, cultural activities and visits with local organizations into the classroom experience. 

Burnet-Jones noted that Education Abroad’s latest initiatives include the development of new scholarships, a focus on sustainable travel and providing a diverse set of programs, including opportunities for students to complete research, internships and fieldwork abroad.

 “We are thrilled to see how well CU Boulder is doing at the national level,” Burnet-Jones concludes, “And we have no intentions of relaxing our efforts. We want to see even more students study abroad in the future. Education Abroad is a high-impact, formative experience that we believe every CU student should have access to.”