As travel restrictions and other complicating factors of the COVID pandemic have waned, there has been an increase in the number of students that are interested in international educational experiences.
Marcus King, the director of study abroad at Prairie View A&M University in Texas, told EdScoop that transitioning the study abroad’s paper-and-pencil system to an entirely digital one might also play a role in steep increases his office has seen when it comes to students completing international education opportunities.
Last year, 182 A&M students completed study abroad trips — a university record. In 2017, the year before the university modernized its study abroad system, only 30 to 40 students participated in study abroad opportunities, King said.
“Year over year, we’ve worked our way up to really get a lot more students to benefit from these international experiences studying abroad,” King said in an interview with EdScoop.
The university is not alone in seeing more students interested in study abroad opportunities. In fact, more than half of institutions that responded to a survey by the software company Terra Dotta, called the State of Globalization in Higher Education in 2023, said they saw applications for study abroad opportunities rise since the COVID pandemic.
Before the the university used the new software, students typically heard of study abroad experiences by word of mouth and wrote out physical applications by hand, requiring them to collect signatures from offices across campus. Now students can browse through all of the campuses and programs, work on applications at their own pace and explore financial aid opportunities to help finance their study abroad experiences.
“I think making this digital transformation over to Terra Dotta was really beneficial for students to be able to complete their applications from wherever they are,” King said.
Once students fill out the applications, they can upload passport and vaccine information and get connected to any international travel or health and safety trainings.
Terra Dotta also offers a risk management app that students and faculty can use to track user locations and itineraries, find health and safety updates based on the part of the world they are visiting and access emergency communication channels.
King said he’s also seen the benefits of the transformation for administrators. He can now send information to students in batches and he said it’s also been useful in managing scholarship awards and collecting transfer credit forms.
“I think it definitely beats filing through file cabinets and searching for information,” King said. “It’s really easy having this online software that we’re able to access from anywhere … we can still assist students or faculty around campus.”