Why have the numbers of exchange students dramatically decreased this year?


Reconciliation of countries.

Mathias Mouriaux

An international student or exchange student is a student who moved from his country to another for between 6 months to some years with the objective of upgrading their language skills and learning a new culture. Nowadays, international students’ programs have a higher demand and great value but this demand historically started after 1980. 

In this graphic, there is a massive augmentation of international students coming to the United-States since 1980. In 2017 there were over 5.3 million international students over the world. The United States is one of the most flagship destinations and is the first host for exchange students in the world with over 1 million international students in 2017. 

There are many kinds of international exchange programs, and the High School program is very valued and has a very high demand. The interviews of some volunteers working with the association Greenheart helped us to understand the actual situation, so according to us, the extent that the virus had on international exchange students will be revealed. 


So, what is the actual situation of international exchange students in the United States, what about the pandemic?


The actual pandemic, unfortunately, influences all populations around the world, and exchange students are also affected. Before this year, the number of exchange students in the United-States had an increased progression each year. This year, the number of exchange students around the world had distinctly decreased compared to last year.

According to the numbers of the association Greenheart, there are only about 15 students in Michigan with their association. Last year, they brought in between 40-50. 

 “I only supervised one child this year and I supervised 4 last year.” 

Mrs. Eacker, exchange coordinator who works with Greenheart, said. 

 “GLHS has 8 exchange students. This number represents approximately one-half of the number GLHS usually hosts.” Furthermore, Mrs. Williams, a teacher for the class English as a second language in Grand Ledge high school taught14 exchange students last year. These numbers could be shocking, but they make sense due to the pandemic situation. 


What can explain the fewer number of students, what impact has the pandemic?


There are multiple consequences on international students because of the pandemic. Consequences of government, organization, families, students, travel companies, and even more. 

Many foreign organizations canceled and did not send students; many students have deferred and will come next fall. There was so much unknown that many students and their families canceled or deferred. Many students and their families didn’t have a choice. Some were afraid that they wouldn’t get the “full” experience- traveling, being in school, school activities. The U.S. government also played a role. The Department of State changed guidelines more than once, and organizations like Greenheart didn’t know if students would even be allowed to come.” Mr. Schuchaskie, district coordinator explained. 

“Above all else, I believe parents are hesitant to send their children across the world during a worldwide pandemic. This makes sense to me – speaking as a parent.  There are many risks to COVID exposure involved in the travel process,” Mrs. Williams added.


And where do these students come from? 


As explained previously the United States government played a role, indeed the government blacklisted some countries who were too infected by the virus. This sanitary choice is noticeable in Grand Ledge High School because not as many countries are present than the previous years. Mrs. Williams said, “The interesting thing to me is that this year Europe is the only continent represented among our exchange students.  Of these Europeans, only 3 countries are represented.  In years past, we have had countries from all over the world represented among our exchange students. I believe the pandemic has had a profound effect on the number of students visiting the U.S. I also believe the pandemic has affected the countries from which we receive students.  This year we have no one representing Asian, South American, or African countries.”


Because of the pandemic, the experience is not the same, so why do some students decide to come over anyway? 


Some people are surprised that some exchange students still decided to come despite the pandemic. There can be multiple reasons for the students to come to the United States despite the Covid-19 situation. These are some examples : they could not be afraid of the pandemic, would go to the United States and can’t wait, can have no more chance if they didn’t take it, can have nothing better to do in their country, and even more reasons. “I know that for some students, they only get one opportunity.” Mr. Schuchaskie explains. “For example, most German students can only come during their 10th-grade year, so if they canceled, they would simply not have an exchange year.”


So, what is the outcome, is that a problem?


To summarise, there are approximately 3 times fewer High School international students in the U. S. than last year. Whereas, this number is only an inference, because the numbers of this regression are unknown yet. Also, the pandemic situation could have a big impact on the future of exchange programs. Indeed, our prevision is that when the pandemic will end, it won’t have over 1 million exchange students in the United States again. The situation will probably have an impact for many years before returning to normal and the curve to attain the same height as previously.

Perhaps some organizations will close because of the situation, maybe people will be less attracted to doing this experience. For example, the French organization named “STS” had to merge with another organization so as not to close.

Moreover, international exchange programs have principally success thanks to word of mouth, that is to say that ; people talk about their international experience who make others envious and want to do the same. 

A lot of international students also come to the United States because they have a special program in their home country’s school, it is recurrent in business school for example. This type of exchange student would, in the future, stay approximately the same than before the pandemic. Whereas, they are actually the most affected kind of international students because of the pandemic. Indeed a lot of schools in the United States and in each country canceled those kinds of programs. Also, the United States government has restricted more this type of programs than high school programs.https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas/study.html