Students face being virtually abroad, physically home

Courtesy / GVSU

Courtesy / GVSU

Mackenzie Keller, Staff Reporter

Many students were devastated to discover that their study abroad programs had been canceled when COVID-19 struck. Plans for the spring/summer semester and this upcoming fall semester have been canceled. But applications for winter 2021 and beyond have been opened in hopes that travel abroad will become possible soon.

Hopes for studying abroad returning remains high as Grand Valley State University plans its biannual Study Abroad Fair. This year, however, it will be held virtually for students to attend.

The event will go from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 13, and students are able to register to attend on the event page. Attendees will hear from partner universities, faculty directors and former student participants.

While some programs will be offered virtually, most participants will have to wait until travel bans are lifted to attend their programs.

GVSU’s first virtual study abroad program was Cultural Geographies and Sustainable Landscape Planning in the Netherlands. It launched June 22 and went through Aug. 4.

Through a combination of video material and lectures, students were provided with a unique opportunity to study abroad without leaving their homes.

The Netherlands program wasn’t the only one to go completely virtual. The Institute for American Universities (IAU) also switched to virtual learning opportunities for the summer semester. Students were able to take advantage of professionals in France, Spain, Morocco and a variety of others in this virtual environment.

On Thursday, Sept. 17, the Padnos International Center will be hosting a virtual Story Slam. From 5-6:30 p.m., students and faculty who have attended these programs will share their experiences with anyone who wishes to attend.

On the GVSU events page, students can sign up for both attending and speaking spots for the Story Slam. This event is to get students excited about studying abroad and to share real-life experiences.

Though applications are open for the winter 2021 semester and onward, students should be prepared for those to be canceled as well. Parallel planning is encouraged for those students who get accepted into study abroad programs.

Virtual advising is being offered by the Padnos International Center along with virtual Q&A sessions every Wednesday at 3 p.m. Both can be signed up for in advance on the Study Abroad website.