University students are having to find alternatives to study abroad experiences they may have planned prior to the pandemic. Colleges across the country, including here in the Upstate, are canceling programs after scrambling last year to bring students back from overseas in the middle of the spring semester.
Clemson University was one of the first universities to do that, according to Kyle Anderson, senior director of global engagement at Clemson.
“We brought them all back and reintegrated them mid-semester into their on-campus courses,” Anderson said.
Clemson pivoted to virtual programs for intercultural opportunities, with Sharon Nagy, associate provost, piloting the shift to this virtual programming, he said.
“We’re trying to deliver the same content, the same opportunities for intercultural communication through virtual means. We call these our Virtual+ programs,” said Anderson. “We’ve actually set up everything from individual classes alongside international faculty and peers to entire semester-long programs conducted in a foreign language with international instructors.”
These Virtual+ programs aren’t meant to replace study abroad programs, Anderson said; they’ve been a way for Clemson to “to put a silver lining on what’s going on and strengthen our international partnerships.”
For now, Clemson students will have to rely on these programs for their international connections, which also provides opportunities for those who may have been unable to participate in a study abroad program due to financial or medical reasons.
“We aren’t sponsoring or supporting any international travel for students at least until August,” Anderson said.
Furman University also will not be supporting study abroad programs this academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are working diligently to resume study away programs in future terms once obstacles presented by the pandemic decline,” said Nancy Georgiev, director of Furman’s Rinker Center for Study Away and International Education, in a statement provided by the university.
She said the university has continued to review guidance from the U.S. Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as from a network of universities and colleges.
“Furman is currently collecting student applications for study away programs beginning in fall 2021. As always, if Furman must cancel a study away program, we will help students defer their applications to a different term or program,” Georgiev said. She added that the university’s Study Away Safety Compliance and Assessment of Risk Committee will meet in the summer to review updated information available to make further decisions about Furman’s programs.
“It is quite depressing for the faculty and students who can’t go to London or can’t go to Seoul — but that’ll all come back,” said Anderson. “Study abroad always bounces back. But at the same time, we’re continuing to move forward.”