How the Global Learning Hub is handling study abroad programs during COVID-19 Pandemic

How the Global Learning Hub is handling study abroad programs during COVID-19 Pandemic

Photo Credits: Quinn Spooner / Aggie File. The International Center at UC Davis. The UC Davis Study Abroad program is currently offering different options for students who were scheduled to complete programs abroad this summer.

Students affected by study abroad cancellations will receive refunds

The UC Davis Global Learning Hub announced the cancellation of Spring Quarter and Summer Session study abroad programs, but it has yet to decide the fate of Fall Quarter programs. 

Zachary Frieders, the executive director of the UC Davis Global Learning Hub (formerly the Study Abroad Office), said the department will assess the continuation of UC Davis’ Fall Quarter Study Abroad programs no later than mid- to late-May.

“[The Global Learning Hub] is taking into account not only the risks associated with travel and COVID-19, but also whether our partners abroad will be able to support students,” he said. 

Frieders explained that even if travel restrictions were lifted by May, there are many other factors to consider before traveling abroad. Each country is responding to the pandemic differently and will experience different economic and political effects, he said. The Global Learning Hub is evaluating the status of each program by looking at individual countries rather than canceling all programs en masse. 

Global Learning Faculty Director and UWP Professor Akili Dragona said they are looking at guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department as well as campus leadership.

“The safety of the students is the most important,” Dragona said. “That is the first thing we are going to consider.”

Dragona and Frieders specified that they speak on behalf of UC Davis faculty-led programs, not the UC Education Abroad Program, which is UC-wide. Dragona leads the annual “Writers in Greece” study abroad trip, which was canceled due to COVID-19 precautions.

The Global Learning Hub is still developing plans to accommodate students impacted by study abroad program cancellations, Frieders said. The May deadline to determine the fate of Fall Quarter programs “is to make sure that we make a decision early enough to give students enough time to make plans for Fall Quarter,” Frieders said. 

“For Spring Quarter students, we worked with the registrar’s office to get them re-enrolled in courses on campus,” he said, adding that students will receive a full refund for canceled programs and saying the Global Learning Hub is working with UC insurance providers to refund airfare.

Many study abroad programs offer internships and experiences that are difficult to replicate, but the Global Learning Hub had been in the process of creating virtual global learning initiatives even before the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“The ‘Global Education for All’ initiative on campus tries to look at global learning holistically and broadly, as something beyond just traditional student mobility,” Frieders said. “Learning about global issues does not always require students to travel.”

Frieders and the Global Learning Hub are still developing remote programs to ensure that most students can still virtually participate in internships with partners abroad. The Global Education for All Initiative was implemented before the COVID-19 outbreak and Frieders described it as an alternative and more accessible global learning experience.

Dragona said a transition to virtual global learning is a work in progress. 

“We are just exploring virtual internships, maybe even some programs that can be delivered remotely,” Dragona said. 

Departments that offer Study Abroad programs are adjusting to the sudden transition to remote learning, just like on-campus courses are.

Ayush Garg, a second-year computer science and cognitive science double major is planning to study psychology and philosophy in Copenhagen, Denmark this upcoming Fall Quarter. 

“They still haven’t fully canceled [the program] yet,” Gard said. “I’m really unsure whether I’m going to be in Davis this fall or not.”

Garg did say, however, that study abroad coordinators have been very communicative and have updated students regularly.

Written by: Hannah Blome — campus@theaggie.org