UW News

June 3, 2024

UW study abroad returns to pre-pandemic participation levels, helps increase graduation rates

UW News

group photo

About 3,000 UW students will study abroad this year, a number that surpasses pre-pandemic participation. Students travel around the globe, including Italy and Spain, other European countries, the global south, and East Asia. A UW group from a previous year is shown in this photograph overlooking Hong Kong.天美影视传媒

As the academic school year comes to an end, many students will continue their studies by packing a suitcase and heading overseas.

About 3,000 天美影视传媒 students will study abroad this school year, a number that surpasses the previous high set in 2018-2019. That means study abroad participation is back to pre-pandemic levels. UW leaders say these programs promise profound experiences and lifelong memories. and 聽new research shows that college students who study abroad are more likely to graduate.

鈥淪tudying abroad increases success for everyone,鈥 said Gayle Christensen, interim vice provost, Office of Global Affairs, and a coauthor on a paper that evaluated graduation rates of students who study abroad. 鈥淏ut it increases the success for underrepresented students and underserved students even more.鈥

The , published last year in the Journal of College Student Development, found that students on college and university campuses who study abroad complete their degrees at higher rates, particularly among historically underserved students 鈥 defined as students who identify as Black, Latinx, Native American or Pacific Islander.


鈥淪tudying in Rome as a first year with The Honors Rome: The Global Refugee Crisis program helped me become more independent, explore my career options and make friends and memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.鈥 鈥 Himansa Poudel, Class of 鈥27


Study abroad exposes students to other cultures, teaching them valuable lessons, including a better understanding of themselves, which they often discover by immersing themselves in the rich fabric of cities like Rome, Tokyo and London. But study abroad is more than a long-distance trip, it鈥檚 a rigorous academic experience, too.

鈥淪tudents earn tens of thousands of UW credits every year through study abroad,鈥 said Wolf Latsch, director of UW Study Abroad. 鈥淲e see academics as the key anchor of a study abroad experience.鈥

About 400 study abroad students from the UW spend their time based at the UW Rome Center. Since the 1980s, the UW has used the historic Palazzo Pio, a 15th-century building overlooking Campo de鈥 Fiori, built on the ruins of the complex where Julius Caesar was assassinated on the Ides of March in 44 B.C. Today, the recently renovated building serves as a classroom, meeting space and apartments for faculty 鈥 and a gateway to exploring Rome, other parts of Italy and the European continent.

photo of student wearing a branded back pack in Rome alleyway

A UW student walking in Rome, Italy, on a study abroad program.天美影视传媒

Other popular study abroad destinations include the in northern Spain, and the great cities of Europe, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. There are also many program offerings in the global south, including Peru, Ghana, Vietnam and India.

Many outside organizations and groups on campus also offer programs, and around 200 UW faculty per year take students to other countries to learn and do research, and to step out of their comfort zone.

Joe Lott has traveled to the United Kingdom, China and Italy teaching students and conducting research. He鈥檚 an associate professor in the UW College of Education and the founding director of the , a cohort-based program that provides support to underrepresented men of color, inviting exploration of intersecting identities and creating opportunities for academic growth and leadership.


鈥淪tudying abroad in Nepal was an amazing opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills from my coursework to a real-world context. In my program, we used community-based participatory research to deliver water, sanitation and hygiene interventions to a rural community.鈥 鈥 Ania Tureczek, Class of 鈥24


For his students, learning can begin before they even board a plane. Just by gathering the required documents to travel outside the U.S., a Native American student saw his identity expand and become more complex.

鈥淚t really questioned like, well, so what does it mean to be American, to get this passport?鈥 Lott said. 鈥淭hat brought up a whole bunch of issues between the relationship between tribal communities, tribal governments, U.S. government, and what that means for that student.鈥

And that was just one example, Lott said. Students gain new confidence in conquering complex challenges, exploring new cities, getting from place to place. Stepping outside their surroundings, they return to UW with a focus and purpose, and with a stronger sense of who they are where they want to go.

鈥淚t’s just more of a confidence of navigating a familiar environment after having navigated an unfamiliar environment,鈥 he said. 鈥淵ou have a greater sense of focus and purpose about what you’re going to do, because you just have 聽more sense of direction and a belief that you can meet challenges that come your way.鈥

About one in five of UW鈥檚 study abroad cohort from last year identify as an under-represented minority. UW Study Abroad is strongly committed to expanding access to, and support for, students who are historically underrepresented in study abroad.

Lott now recruits for study abroad from students enrolled in the Brotherhood Initiative and 聽its companion program for women of color, the . And the Office of Global Affairs works with academic advisors and scholarship counselors across all three campuses to make sure all students understand that study abroad could be for them, including students who rely on scholarships to pay for their education.


To learn more about UW study abroad you can click on learn more at this .


The Office of Global Affairs awards up to 500 scholarships each year to support students who want to study abroad, Christensen said.

UW officials want students to understand that study abroad is for everyone, regardless of major, including transfer students, and at all points in their academic career. In the nearly 10 years Christensen has worked at UW, Global Affairs has been able to increase the number of scholarships it awards fourfold to students who want to see the world.

鈥淥ur goal as an office is that every Pell-eligible student, or even every Washington need-grant student would know coming in, 鈥業 have a scholarship to study abroad,鈥欌 she said. 鈥淭hat’s the visionary goal for us.鈥

For more information on the research or to learn more about the Office of Global Affairs, contact Christensen at gsc6@uw.edu.