By Gwendolyn Nowaczyk
The pandemic started while I was halfway across the world, completing a study abroad in Austria at the Management Center of Innsbruck. I just arrived home to the United States when I received an urgent email from Flagler College telling me to return immediately.
Luckily, I had previously made plans to return to the U.S. and was able to avoid the panic of throwing my life into my suitcase and catching one of the last available flights before global travel was shut down.
The students who were about to fly out to begin their study abroad experiences were not so lucky.
Many people view college as the opportunity to live abroad, even for a short period of time. However, with the current and potential limitations on studying abroad, there is little confidence surrounding the immediate future of travel.
Jamie Davis, a student at Flagler College, attempted to participate in a study abroad to Scotland twice. However, it seemed as though it was not meant to be. The first time, as a sophomore, she had paid the deposit; but, the trip was cancelled due to the lack of people who signed up.
The second time the trip was cancelled was due to COVID-19. The school kept assuring students, even as more of the world closed down, that they would manage to go. The college was still holding information meetings on what students should pack.
Davis initially came to Flagler College not thinking about studying abroad — It wasn’t a priority. This changed as she saw her peers going abroad and it became inspiring. Sadly, that opportunity no longer exists.
Many schools — and students — are sharing that study abroad naturally has decreased not only because of the state of the world but the possibility that schools can cancel the program any day, so students are unwilling to invest. Visas, however, are still being granted as there is still the ability to go abroad to learn. There is also the option of conducting a study abroad virtually through online classes. This option, though, makes it complicated for students due to time difference.
Additionally, study abroad gives students the chance to grow and make connections and friends with people from all over the world that can be integral in shaping future life decisions or career goals. With limited chances or programs, it makes it difficult to gain the full experience and positive aspects of going to a new country.
With the changes happening in the world today, how will studying abroad look going forward?
That is a question that is still up for debate. Maybe nothing will change, or maybe there will be stricter regulations and health checks once travel resumes. Quarantine upon arrival may become a requirement, instead of a temporary response to a pandemic.
No matter what, studying abroad is continually evolving and it may return to what it once was or maybe it will stay completely different because of COVID-19. Hopefully going forward, students will be able once again go overseas and experience new cultures and norms.