Study abroad and off-campus programs adapt to function virtually

Study abroad and off-campus programs adapt to function virtually

Photo Credits: AGGIE FILE

Programs continue to offer students opportunities and growth through remote platforms

While a majority of students spend the entirety of their college careers in Davis, many choose to participate in programs abroad and spend a duration of time learning in a new location. In the past, this might have meant learning beside the Eiffel Tower, the Lincoln Memorial or enjoying Italian gelato in between classes. Today, off-campus programs have switched to a new reality of remote functioning during a pandemic to create the same impactful experience from the comfort of each student’s bedroom. 

Despite the inability to conduct study abroad in person, the Global Learning Hub has provided students with a number of alternative programs to continue this learning and growth. For example, they have provided students with virtual internships and have introduced a Global Career Development Series. Zachary Frieders, the executive director of the Global Learning Hub, explained that the adjustment to remote learning has been an ongoing pursuit of adapting with the times. 

“At the start of the pandemic, our priority was to be as responsive as possible to needs and interests in this new environment,” Frieders said, via email. “We surveyed several thousand UC Davis students and received a strong response: students told us they were interested in remote internships, continuing to develop soft-skills, engaging with free opportunities, and continuing programs for credit.”

Despite changing circumstances due to the pandemic, the Global Learning Hub continues to offer students the chance to develop a global knowledge and understanding of the world, academically and professionally. While in-person study abroad will return when health directives deem it to be safe, Frieders encouraged students to take advantage of the programs that are available now remotely.   

“We encourage students to look at the full array of opportunities for global learning and think about what their objectives are,” Frieders said. “So many opportunities are not limited or diminished by remote work. We’ve seen across the board that it’s possible to continue work, life and learning in remote context. We see, daily, the creative and innovative ways that communities are using to connect with each other despite the pandemic and remote interactions.”

The UC Center Sacramento has also transitioned to operating remotely with virtual courses and internships. Cindy Simmons, UCCS associate director, describes the center’s perseverance and commitment to continuing the program effectively. 

“During this pandemic, UC Center Sacramento has not paused our programming,” Simmons said, via email. “We are committed to offering our UCCS students the same amazing experience whether it be in-person or virtual. We have now been offering our program on a fully virtual platform for [three] quarters and our students continue to have a great experience at our Center.”

By providing services to students virtually, the UC Sacramento Center aims to prepare students for life after college. According to Simmons, the remote internships allow students to gain real experience in the workforce, which is becoming increasingly virtual with the pandemic. 

“UC Center has been able to arrange for remote internships for 100% of our UCCS students in the same offices that were hosting students in person pre-COVID,” Simmons said. “Participating in internships (whether they be in-person or remote) is a great way to gain professional experience, build skills that you can use in graduate school or in your professional career and network.”

The UC Washington Program has also quickly adapted to the circumstances of the pandemic by shifting online with remote internships, classes, mentorships and events. 

Being remote also means expenses like housing and transportation are no longer applicable, leaving students only responsible for the costs of tuition and creating a more affordable opportunity for all students. In fact, Cheryl Purifoy, the director of the UC Davis Washington Program, shared that it has doubled their number of students participating through this remote period. 

“We’re recognizing that, […] by having it remote, more students are not only interested, but more students are finding it an equitable and inclusive program for them now,” Purifoy said. 

As professional life everywhere continues to shift virtually, with Zoom calls replacing in-person interactions, the program has also shifted their teachings to remote skills, such as soft skills and team building as well as offering special experiences like a dynamic speaker series. As a word of advice to students who are hesitant in participating in a remote, off-campus program, Purifoy emphasized the importance of gaining experience outside of the classroom.  

“I would say to students, whether it’s the Washington Program or study abroad program or UC Sacramento program, they need to get some hands-on experience to be able to enhance their learning and to be able to make good career decisions,” Purifoy said. “The best way for them to do that is to take advantage of all that UC Davis has to offer in terms of extracurricular activity and experiential education.”

Written by: Nora Farahdel — features@theaggie.org