Studying Abroad in the Era of COVID

By Alyssa Smith, Staff Writer—

While COVID-19 has wrapped caution tape around the whole wide world, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s study abroad program is working hard to make those global ends meet. 

With study abroad programs cut short in spring 2020 and canceled for fall 2020, spring 2021 is still ruled by uncertainty. 

Students who have active study abroad applications for spring 2021 have been receiving updates about their study abroad status, but a solid decision is yet to be made. 

Many students had their study abroad experiences cut short this past spring. 

Gabrielle Lasater, a senior studying Spanish and International Relations, was stranded in Peru for two weeks after the country locked down, but eventually made it home via a military charter plane. 

“Once I realized I was actually coming home, I was honestly really relieved because I was really concerned that I was going to be stuck there indefinitely with no idea how or when I was ever going to be able to come back into the states,” Lasater said. 

Instead of being discouraged, Lasater reflected on her positive experiences.

“The biggest take away that I have from my experience was humility and all of the things and aspects of daily life that we, as Americans, take for granted,” she said.

Daniel See, an Exercise Science major, was studying in Stirling, Scotland before he had to leave. After the initial disappointment, See was grateful to have had at least some time abroad. 

Hayley Edde, a Humanities and International Studies major, was studying in Ulsan, South Korea at the time of the virus’ global spread. Originally choosing to remain in South Korea despite the virus, Edde inevitably had to go back to the states. 

Despite these setbacks, students remain ambitious for a passport-required learning experience. 

Director of UTC’s study abroad programs, Laura Livermore, said she has seen “how resilient our students are and how committed they are to having a study abroad experience. Despite all that our world is going through, we still have many students who are making plans to go out and experience all that the world has to offer.”

If global travel remains an unsafe option, the alternative is virtual study abroad, which has already been available for those who cannot leave the country, but would still like the global experience. Students can even intern abroad virtually. 

If spring 2021 programs proceed, students will need to complete pre-departure training and health and risk management assessments. 

While students wait out the virus, they can attend virtual Study Abroad 101 and 102 sessions, which explore the virtual study abroad options, and are required prior to applying. 

     “Now, more than ever, being globally engaged and aware is so crucial.” Livermore said. “Remember that the world is not a scary place, and if you give it a chance, there is so much you can learn. Study abroad really is a life changing experience.” 

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