By Mackenzie Ullmer, Alyssa Dekeyser, & Indiana Schilz
Studying abroad is a chance to meet new people, explore different cultures, and develop new language skills. However, 2020 was unlike any other year for students hoping to study abroad. Like virtually everything else, the study abroad experience has been heavily impacted by the recent COVID-19 pandemic, especially for students attending the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB).
“UWGB, unfortunately, canceled all in-person study abroad programs from Summer 2020 to Summer 2021,” Jemma Lund, the Study Abroad Program Manager at UWGB, explains. The sudden halt to in-person programs affected around 120 students. Those who already started their experience for the spring 2020 semester were recalled back to the U.S. and completed their program virtually.
Meghan Finger, now a UWGB senior, was saddened that she could not participate in a study abroad program in Argentina in 2020 due to COVID-19. “I think that anyone who has the opportunity to study abroad should do so. Several of my family members have done it, and it’s a great way to not only see another culture but further your education. For me, I had a couple of classes to finish up the minor, and the study abroad trip would have given me the rest of the credits.”
Another UWGB senior, Zoe Betancourt, was sent home from her study abroad experience and internship in London in 2020. “I wanted to study abroad because being alone in another country brings out a different form of independence. I wanted to grow more personally and challenge my boundaries,” Betancourt explains. For other students hoping to study abroad, Betancourt offers a few suggestions. “Make sure you research where you will be staying and traveling to. It is important to know of cultural expectations and just the overall way of life in that area. Keep a diary and take tons of pictures. You’ll want to remember those memories. At the same time, however, make sure to put your phone down and immerse yourself in your surroundings. One thing that I wish I had done more was befriending more locals in addition to the other study abroad students,” shares Betancourt.
Although studying abroad has been impossible for most college students this past year, the UWGB Office of International Education is looking forward to offering several options for students hoping to participate in a study abroad experience. Lund says, “We are currently evaluating all programs to reopen on a case-by-case basis. We will continue to constantly evaluate programs for updates and work with partners abroad to ensure we offer safe and effective programs for UWGB students.” Lund continues, “We hope to offer a ‘normal’ number of programs by next summer, with a slow rollout of approved programs before then. As this is a worldwide pandemic and every country’s response has been different, our program list may look different or be more limited in the short term.” If you’re unable or hesitant to travel, Lund recommends looking into the virtual internship programs. “These are offered at a lower price than in-person programs, making them more affordable for all UWGB students,” Lund points out.
In a typical year, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay offers around 40 study abroad programs. These include faculty-led travel courses abroad and in the U.S., summer and winter programs, traditional semester programs, internships, student teaching abroad, and the National Student Exchange. Students can visit https://www.uwgb.edu/study-abroad/ or the Facebook and Instagram pages for the Office of International Education for more information about studying abroad. Jemma can also be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a virtual appointment. Fall 2021 semester applications are now open and can be found on the website.