What will study abroad look like post pandemic?

What will study abroad look like post pandemic?

Photo Credits: The International Center where the office of the Study Abroad Program is located at UC Davis. (Quinn Spooner / Aggie)

Global Learning Hub discusses plans for study abroad programs in fall 2021

Among the many experiences lost as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has been studying abroad. Given the stay-at-home orders and health directives, the prospect of students traveling overseas became dangerous and study abroad programs have been canceled or moved online since March 2020. However, as vaccines begin to be distributed, hope for a travel-filled future lingers in the air and provides possibilities for students dreaming of a study abroad experience. 

Zachary J. Frieders, the executive director of UC Davis’ Global Learning Hub and Global Affairs, shared that the Global Learning Hub is continuing to navigate the uncertainty of these times as they determine the best decision for student safety. Frieders said that a decision about in-person fall programs will likely be made in May. 

“Hopefully things will continue to evolve [and] we can send our students this fall,” Frieders said. “But if not, we want to get back out there as soon as we possibly can, and so we’ll just keep looking at the evolving guidances, the vaccination program rollout and how the virus is impacting different parts of the world differently. But we certainly intend to send study abroad as soon as we feel like it’s safe to do so.”

Joanna Regulska, the vice provost and dean of Global Affairs, shared that the decision-making process involves a variety of careful considerations. 

“As always, we will be following guidance from the CDC [Centers of Disease and Control and Prevention], public health officials and others to adjust logistics and/or accommodations as necessary and we will continue to plan programs that have high quality academic and experiential rigor,” Regulska said via email. 

Regulska shared that beyond the in-person study abroad programs, the Global Learning Hub also offers remote opportunities such as the Global Career Development series and the Global Ambassador Mentorship Program that provide students with experiences from their own homes.

“Study Abroad is an excellent way to gain global perspectives and experience the world, but it isn’t the only way,” Regulska said via email. “Global Affairs is here to help, especially our Global Learning Hub, which is linking students to existing global learning opportunities across campus and developing new ones.”

Additionally, many students choose a study abroad program outside of the selection UC Davis offers: University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) provides UC students with study abroad opportunities across the globe and functions separately from the Global Learning Hub. Emma McNeilly, a second-year global disease biology major, is planning on studying abroad with UCEAP in Denmark during the fall semester of 2021. 

McNeilly has always planned to study abroad and is choosing to do so during her junior year before she starts doing research or taking more complicated major requirements. While the program has not been fully confirmed due to COVID-19, McNeilly shared the factors she took into consideration when making the decision to apply for the program. 

“I’m a global disease biology major, so traveling in a pandemic is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see health policies and practices in another country,” McNeilly said. “I wasn’t going to go if I wasn’t vaccinated, but I recently got vaccinated so that was a priority for me.”

While McNeilly is hesitant about potentially encountering new strains of the virus while overseas, she trusts the program directors to make a decision that is safe for all students. Overall, she looks forward to the potential experiences to come if the program is approved for this fall. 

“I am just looking forward to going to another country; I’ve really never left the U.S.,” McNeilly said. “I’m just excited to see how different countries structure their education.”

Looking forward, Regulska encourages students to stay informed about study abroad opportunities and plan ahead by speaking to advisors. 

“We look forward to having more opportunities for connecting with each other, learning and creating together in person, whether on campus or around the world, as soon as it’s safe to do so,” Regulska said via email. “I encourage students to reach out to advisors in our Global Learning Hub to ask questions and learn more about programs and opportunities that are best for them for both the short and long-term.”
Written by: Nora Farahdel — features@theaggie.org