This week, Google unveiled a refreshed website for Google Trends, their tool for tracking specific search terms and keywords, by location and popularity, since Google first started helping people find information on the “World Wide Web”. I decided to give it a try, and started looking for study abroad related keywords, and stumbled upon a peculiar finding: the amount of searches for “study abroad” seems to be going down over the past few years.
As you can see from the graph above, while there are indeed spikes every year, the overall trend line goes downward as time has passed. This surprised me, since my expectation was to see an upward trend in interest due to increasing accessibility and the expanding efforts of different entities aimed at promoting student travel. I decided to then try different terms to see how they would compare and the results were quite parallel.
Every year for the past decade, the Institute of International Education has been announcing how more and more Americans are studying abroad, which is certainly conflictive with this apparent downward trend in relevant online searches. Looking at the national level, searches in the United States do not reflect such a marked decline in interest, at least for study abroad; however, searches for “student exchange” and “student travel” do show a decline that parallels the downward worldwide trend.
These results present more questions than they answer, and they merit discussion. That said, these results do provide interesting insight as to the information search process of students interested in traveling abroad. If you take a close look at the charts, you will see that most years have two spikes in interest. Since 2004, these spikes occur in January or February and then again in September of every year. On the other hand, you can see low marks every year around June. This information should be useful for study abroad programs and companies looking to advertise, since they can target students during the months when interest is at its highest.
The explanations behind these highs and lows could include the fact that students simply don’t find an adequate amount of the type of information they are looking for. Perhaps they give up on searching the internet altogether and decide, instead, to just talk with their peers who have had international experiences before. Regardless of the specific reason behind the trend, it is extremely interesting to see the pattern laid out to show how it repeats itself every single year for the last 10 years.
The good news is that these downward trends do not match up with actual study abroad participation as reported by the Open Doors report released annually by the Institute of International Education. Could the explanation, then, be that students simply aren’t using Google to search for study abroad related information? Or, even more unlikely, are they simply not interested in using the internet in general to find the information they need?
Of course, declining interest in Google -or the internet for that matter- does not necessarily mean declining interest in study abroad, or less students actually traveling, but it does present an interesting set of questions. Is the internet lacking in reliable study abroad resources? If students are not searching online as much for study abroad information, are they getting their information elsewhere? Where?
Unfortunately, we do not yet have the answers to all of these questions, but seeing these downward and fluctuating trends in interest -at least as reported by Google Trends– does showcase the need for reliable sources of information that make it easier for students to consider and actually partake in study abroad and exchange programs. That’s where Voy! aims to make a difference. That is why we are here.
[accordion_tab title=”Web Developer: William-Jose Velez González” default]
William-José Vélez González is a graduate from Florida International University in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in International Relations. He currently pursues a Master of Science degree in Engineering Management at FIU. Born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, he lives in Miami, Florida.[/accordion_tab]