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Study Abroad Programs Continue Education Through the Pandemic

During the month of May, VSU’s study abroad and international programs shared information through interviews on the current state of their programs and their hopes for the future.

According to Irina McClellan, assistant director of international programs, there are several opportunities for students to participate in study abroad even during the global pandemic.

Virtual study abroad programs have been created by many international universities in order to provide students with chances to still connect with the world around them.

There are currently programs in Japan, South Korea, and Russia. Other countries will soon be available as well.

She also shared that students could take part in tours with locations all around the globe without the need to step out of the country.

“It’s not the same as travelling somewhere but you get to communicate with people from around the world, ”McClellan said.

According to the Kansai Gaidai University brochures, there are language, history, music, business and many other course topics available to choose from.

Students can decide to take courses without credit, but have the option to get credit for a fee.

There are currently around five to seven individuals taking part in the Japan initiative.

Sara Barerras, graduate assistant of the international program, shared about her own experiences with virtual study abroad in Japan.

Barreras is currently participating in a course on Japanese Literature and History. In addition to this, she was previously able to take classes through the University of Amsterdam.

Although the experience is available, not many students have taken advantage of the program, as a result of lack of knowledge about the resources.

“I think a lot of students are missing opportunities for intellectual engagement and connection that these universities are offering because of COVID,” Barerras said.

Presently, the international program’s staff is interested in bringing awareness to the student body population on how to take advantage of what is available to them.

McClellan emphasized what she believes some the benefits study abroad has for students. “Students gain confidence and problem-solving skills, which are things that students need when looking for jobs in the real world,” McClellan said.

Barrera expressed that many students feel as though study abroad or exchange programs are out of reach for them financially, but there are ways to obtain the funds for the experience.

The Gilman scholarship is an option for students who would like financial assistance for either virtual or physical study abroad programs. The application can be found on the VSU website under study abroad student resources.

In addition to the website, the program also has a social media page via Facebook that is updated regularly and displays current events and opportunities for students. Although the program is not currently hosting any events on campus because of students migrating back home, they hope to do so in the future.

Story by Ruth Tavarez. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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