SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – International students traveling to the U.S. and study abroad opportunities have become a cornerstone of higher education.

Both programs were stifled during the pandemic. Colleges and Universities across western Massachusetts are welcoming students back for the 2022 Fall Semester, including international students. According to The Institute for International Education, foreign student enrollment dropped by 15 percent during the 2020-2021 year.

The Pew Research Center credits the decrease mainly to the pandemic citing closed borders, flight cancellations, and other pandemic-related challenges. 22News spoke with the Interim VP of Enrollment Management at Western New England University about international student enrollment for the current semester.

“We’re welcoming about 25 new undergraduate international students and 25 new international graduate students.” Michelle Goodfellow, Interim VP Enrollment Management at WNE University

Since the campus held 75 percent of classes on the ground in 2021, the university did not see as steep a decline as other institutions. Goodfellow says this was a benefit to the campus, as international students are an important part of the school community.

“We want our students to have the opportunity to meet students from California, Canada, or China, and get a sense of what an international perspective looks like.” Michelle Goodfellow, Interim VP Enrollment Management at WNE University

Study abroad programs were another piece of higher education that was altered by the pandemic. Students at Western New England are happy these programs have returned for the most part.

“It diversifies your education and allows you to see things you might not have seen otherwise,” Allie Provost was one of 17 other students at Western New England that had the chance to study in Italy this past summer.

According to Open Doors Data, study abroad decreased by more than 50 percent during the pandemic. Provost said the experience was life changing, “there was a point in time where we weren’t sure if the trip would happen at all. Restrictions and things ended up being out of the way and we could have this experience that was really awesome.”

The opportunity to immerse into another culture returned to supplement the learning experience for students across the world.