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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Students share their experiences studying abroad during COVID-19

Two UC Davis students discuss the perks and challenges of going abroad during the pandemic


By JALAN TEHRANIFAR — features@theaggie.org


Almost 16% of students at four-year universities study abroad at some point during their college education, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many programs offered at UC Davis and through University of California Education Abroad Program (UCEAP) have been canceled, postponed or altered in the past three academic years.

UC Davis students were able to resume education abroad in the fall of 2021, but some students’ experience studying abroad during a pandemic has been quite different. Sophie Mares De Juan, a third-year international relations and sociology double major, studied in Brussels, Belgium last fall. She was there for six months, taking courses and participating in an internship at an international research office.

“While I was there, [during] the first months, [COVID-19] didn’t exist almost,” Mares De Juan said. “I went there, and one of the things they required was to be vaccinated. When I got there they didn’t ask me much and briefly checked my vaccination card.”

 Mares De Juan said that when the omicron variant of COVID-19 began circulating in late November, she had to get used to the European Union’s mitigation strategies, which were slightly different from those of the U.S. She explained that to access non-essential indoor spaces, she needed a “COVID Safe Pass.”

“In order to get a pass, the government needed to approve your vaccines,” she said. “It was a weird situation because it was only implemented in Brussels at first. It was a situation that no one knew had to deal with for international students. I did not get a QR code [COVID Safe Pass] because I was an international student. I had to go to France and get a QR code, and then come back to Brussels and use it.”

Despite the challenge of adapting to changing restrictions, Mares De Juan said that studying abroad during COVID-19 was positive in some ways. She said that quarantining in a house together with her five roommates while they navigated getting COVID Safe Passes was a bonding experience that brought them closer together. 

Other students, like first-year human development major Rozalie Svecova, plan to complete their entire degree abroad at UC Davis. Svecova is originally from Prague, but chose to come to UC Davis because she wanted to experience life in a new place like California. She said that when she first arrived on campus in fall 2021, some students questioned her decision to move to Davis from Prague.

“When I got here a lot of people were surprised that I left Prague to come to America, especially during a global pandemic, but I guess it’s the same way Americans dream of traveling Europe, just the other way around,” she said. 

Svecova said that when COVID-19 first began, she was worried she would not have a chance to attend college abroad.

“I knew I wanted to study abroad from the beginning of high school, but when quarantine and everything else happened during my junior year, I thought my chances at studying abroad were over,” she said. 

Svecova said she was very excited to apply and commit to UC Davis, but that moving to Davis last summer was somewhat difficult, since COVID-19 cases were high at the time. 

“I didn’t want to expose my parents to COVID so I ended up moving here all on my own and had to navigate coming to not only a new school, but also a new country by myself,” she said.

She also said that she was unable to visit her family between fall and winter quarter due to the omicron variant surge.

Despite the difficulty dealing with the pandemic during her college moving process, Svecova is glad she made the decision to study abroad for college and is hopeful that pandemic-related struggles will ease with time.

“It’s been hard dealing with [COVID-19] while so many new things are happening in my life, but overall, I’m glad I chose to study here and have no regrets attending UC Davis instead of going to college local to my hometown,” she said.


Written by: Jalan Tehranifar — features@theaggie.org



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