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How to Move Forward With Study Abroad Plans During COVID-19

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

If you were planning to study abroad this semester, your plans were probably halted. While there will inevitably be opportunities to travel again, it’s unclear when that will be. While travel restrictions could let up soon so you can safely fly away to your dream destination, there’s a chance that if you’re a junior or senior, your thwarted study abroad plans may need to take a different route entirely — and that’s okay.

While there are ways to continue in your study abroad path, there are also methods to put it on hold for a while so you can live your original plans to their fullest potential. Your health, safety and well-being are the most important things, but education and life experiences are important, too. Prioritizing those bigger plans still should have a place in your academic life.

It won’t always be up to you. Countries and schools will close, reopen, take students or send people home — that will always be the case, and you’ll need to account for those logistics. However, some decisions will undoubtedly fall into your hands, too, even if those choices are just about how you plan to replicate studying abroad during coronavirus in other ways.

No matter the situation, there are a few steps you may need to take to stay on top of things. You can figure out how to study abroad during COVID-19, even if it isn’t what you expected.

Pay Attention to Your School’s Guidelines

One of the most important parts of this situation is paying attention to what your school allows or finding out if they have any plans in place already for their study abroad programs and students. Many universities will have comprehensive guides and plans to help students move forward with their study abroad journeys. Many schools are even offering alternative programs or tracks for reapplication in another semester.

Read through your school’s resources, or even take a peek at the guidelines released by your destination school and see what they have to offer. Perhaps you can go during a different semester or take their classes remotely. 

Be Flexible

The whole world is in a bit of flux right now, and one of the security elements we’ve all lost is the ability to think and plan for the moderate future. Yes, we know that the world will probably be normal again eventually, and yes, we know we’re all on lockdown right now, more or less. But what we can’t say for sure is what will happen two months, six months or even a year from now. 

However, the uncertainty of current circumstances doesn’t mean you should give up on your dream of studying abroad — it’s an incredibly rewarding experience for both your personal growth and your career prospects. In fact, at Centre College, 97% of study abroad graduates were placed in jobs within 10 months of completing their degrees. Educational travel is worth it — so if you’re planning a study abroad for next semester or even next year, you may just have to go with the flow and be open to changes along the way.

Perhaps there will be countries safer and more open to study abroad students than the target country you’ve always dreamed of visiting. Maybe your program will involve maintaining social distancing measures that make your experience different from what you expected. What ways are you willing to bend? Making a priority list could help you figure out what’s most important to you in the process. 

Pros and Cons of Taking A Gap Year

Go Digital

If the “study” part of the study abroad experience is the most important thing to you, there is probably an easy solution — find an online program and do a virtual study abroad during COVID-19. Many people do international programs for more than just the classes, and if the experience and immersion are more important to you, digital programs may not be your cup of tea.

However, if the classes your foreign school offers are what really got you into the idea of study abroad, a virtual program could be the perfect way to experience those courses right away without upsetting the order of our current world.

Be Patient

Depending upon where you are in your college career and what your priorities with studying abroad are, waiting could be your best bet. If you have three years left of college, your senior year could promise a bright and sunny future. If your school offers plans for rescheduling your study abroad program or study tour, you might want to take that path and see what happens. The waiting game isn’t fun, but it’s part of living during COVID and being a responsible world citizen.

Take Faculty-Led Programs

While every school and program is different, there may be opportunities to engage in faculty-led programs to give you a different kind of educational experience. If your school’s faculty already leads international programs, this could be a logical next step for you in your educational journey.

Many faculty members are looking into creative ways to teach the materials they’re passionate about in a different setting. While this could mean participating in an online program, you could also learn on campus. It depends on your specific school and your priorities.

Save Up and Travel Later

If your college experience is ending soon — before the foreseeable end of the pandemic — you might have to take your travel plans elsewhere. While traveling on your own won’t be the same as studying abroad, it’s better in plenty of ways. For one, traveling on your own is much less expensive than paying for tuition and housing through a university. Plus, traveling alone offers much more flexibility with your activities, time and daily schedule.

If you really want to have an educational overseas experience, consider enrolling in language classes or even pursuing graduate education abroad. There are many ways to find global learning, even if you lean toward a slightly unconventional path. Who knows? You may find your own way much more enriching.

New Directions

Even if all hope feels lost right now, options are out there. Your study abroad experience during coronavirus may not look exactly how you pictured, or you may have to wait to see it come to fruition, but you can still engage in global education. You may even find that your new direction can give you exactly what you need. 

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Author: Alyssa Abel

Alyssa Abel is a college, career and education writer with a special interest in student mental health, study abroad and learning. Her work appears regularly on education sites like HerCampus, Teaching Channel and CollegeXpress, among others. Follow her on Twitter @alyssaabelblog or read more on her website, Syllabusy.