Study abroad program continues amidst setbacks caused by the pandemic

By Tatyanna Carman

Rider’s study abroad program is preparing students to venture out of the country in the coming summer and fall semesters amidst the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Graduate assistant for the Center of International Education (CIE) Meghan Korb said there are five students slated to study abroad this summer and 15 students in the fall.

“We did recently extend our deadline for the fall semester to April 1 for specific programs, which are our exchange partners,” she said. “So we’re hopeful that more students will get interested. We’re still in that weird holding phase where people are still a little hesitant to make future plans, which is absolutely understandable.”

Korb said that 14 students were abroad when the pandemic hit in spring 2020.

“Then they had to, you know, come home. That was a hard transition, I can imagine on the students’ behalf,” Korb said. “But what we did was, we worked diligently to get them into classes that would fulfill their needs that they would have done abroad. We wanted to make sure that they felt that they weren’t going to be behind because of this. That was really important for us.”

She said that around the time that the pandemic hit was when they would be sending out the students on short-term programs for spring break.

“So that was a big number of students that unfortunately, due to the circumstances, were not even able to leave the U.S,” she said. “And then you know, from there, our main programs were canceled. And it was difficult because we had a lot of students that wanted to go abroad.”

Korb explained how the program has been altered since the start of the pandemic. She said that program providers from other schools and study abroad programs, such as International Studies Abroad (ISA), usually came for the study abroad fair, which had to be virtual.

“We did a virtual study abroad fair. It was just a simple Prezi presentation where you could go at your leisure and look through all of our program offerings that we have, as well as doing our info sessions via Zoom,” she said. “And then we also do our study abroad advising so the student is excited to go abroad and is ready to take that next step. They can meet with us virtually, of course, to discuss those matters. In regards to travel, of course, there hasn’t been any travel to out of the country. I mean, so that is the summer is going to really be a test to see how it goes.”

Sophomore healthcare policy major Anjali Chennapragada said that the pandemic has made it hard for her to gauge whether certain study abroad programs will run.

“I’ve tried to study abroad three times this year,” she said. “The first program was going to be a service- learning trip. That got canceled pretty early on. The second one was going to be a multi-country trip and then it got moved to one country and then got canceled. And then now I’m hoping to study abroad in the summer, but it’s been really difficult because of the border control. And we don’t know whether certain countries will let students in so that’s been kind of the main questionability of it.”

Chennapragada is planning to study abroad this summer in Denmark. When asked what made her want to study abroad despite her three attempts, she said that she’s always wanted to study abroad, even before she got to college.

Korb said that one of the major challenges the program has faced was student interest, which she attributed to the uncertainty of when the pandemic will be over.

“I feel like we each get to a point that we say, ‘it’ll be done by then and then we’re like, ‘just kidding.’ We’ve got to wait longer,” she said. “We don’t have a crystal ball, unfortunately, and I feel like a lot of people say that we just don’t know when things are going to be normal again. So I think that’s just been a really hard thing for students to overcome and think. about and you know, it feels like a risk may be at times, and I absolutely understand students’ parents you know, feeling a little uncomfortable with it right now.”

Chennapragada predicted that there will be more students wanting to study abroad in 2021 or even 2022.

“I think for the fall because I think people have an expectation that, potentially, things will lighten up and that restrictions will ease up a little bit, and especially since it’ll be like semester-long programs for the fall,” she said. “I think that there will be definitely increased interest in studying abroad in the coming semesters.”

Korb also advised students who want to study abroad or are currently planning to study abroad to “have an open mind and just be adaptable.”

“So to think like, well, I wanted to be in school, but now I’m in an online school, and I never wanted to actually be online, to make that adaptability I think is a good skill to take with you abroad,” she said. “Because things can happen when you’re abroad, like, you have to learn a new transportation system, you have to learn about the culture, but it makes you a well-rounded individual. And it makes you stand out amongst a crowd for getting a job for sure because they can see that you have had those real-life experiences.”

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