Planning for a Different Study Abroad Future

The sudden onset of the global pandemic created an unprecedented suspension of study abroad activity globally. That experience changed thinking on some campuses about internationalization, student mobility, and interactions with and expectations of third-party providers. We explore three different responses to the pandemic and how study abroad offices are preparing for a study abroad future that will look different.

EVALUATING PARTNERSHIPS

We have been in the middle of this pandemic for over 9 months now. So much has changed. Our understanding of student mobility has been fundamentally altered and we have had to respond not only to the immediate crisis, but also to its long-term impact on our work and mission. At Skidmore College, we have carefully assessed all partner programs with an eye toward how they responded to the initial COVID outbreak. Some programs simply did not rise to the challenge and we must consider that when approving them for our students. Other partners exceeded our expectations and those are the ones we will look at to collaborate even further, this include IFSA. For now, we are working with students to find the strongest programs based on our priorities: academic strength, crisis response and commitment to justice, diversity and equity. These values will guide us as we develop new collaborations and strengthen existing partnerships moving forward.
Cori Filson
Director, Off-Campus Study & Exchanges, Skidmore College

REMOTE OPPORTUNITIES

Over the summer and fall, as the prospect of onsite study abroad seemed less and less likely for Pomona College students due to the pandemic, the Office of Study Abroad worked on an alternative to create a different kind of access to global learning opportunities for our students, and in particular, for the junior class who might not have the opportunity to study abroad while at Pomona. Working closely with our program partners abroad, our Study Abroad Committee, Academic Departments, and our Curriculum Committee, we developed and curated a list of courses and internships delivered remotely through existing partnerships.

While there is no perfect substitute for in-person study abroad, we are excited about the unique opportunity these innovative courses offer students to engage meaningfully with critical global issues and experiential learning across continents and borders. We see this not just as a benefit for juniors who would have studied abroad, but also for those who might not have for various reasons, including undocumented/DACAmented students, athletes, students whose academic requirements make a semester abroad more difficult, and students helping to care for or support family members.

Students enroll in Pomona’s Global Partnership Courses through the Office of Study Abroad and the process and policies follow the general structure already in place for study abroad. The cost of the courses is fully covered by Pomona College.
Nicole Gowdy
Director of Study Abroad, Pomona College

EXPANDING PARTNERSHIPS

The University of Texas at Austin chose to transition existing third-party program provider partnerships from limited to comprehensive partnerships in response to COVID-19. Given the uncertainties that exist (organization capacity, governmental policies, student interest) we felt that offering students more options rather than less would be a means to ensure that our access initiatives could continue to succeed. The expansion of affiliate programs will allow students to transition from one program to another program within a provider’s portfolio or across providers with ease. If we had not taken this step, we would have had contractual barriers which would have led to academic and financial barriers. We believe that students can continue to go abroad during the pandemic. The University of Texas at Austin and Texas Global are committed to providing meaningful education abroad opportunities to students who seek to engage with the world in a way that is ethical, responsible and safe. COVID-19 has changed the world forever, but it has not diminished the benefits of international education—cultural awareness, adaptability, self-reliance, and problem solving. We have students abroad during fall 2020, and we will have students abroad during spring 2021.
Heather Thompson
Director, UT Austin Education Abroad