Study Abroad cancelled for 2020-21 school year


Though current opportunities to study abroad have been halted, the Padnos International Center encourages interested Lakers to plan ahead for future semesters. (Courtesy/Alissa Lane)

Autumn Pitchure, Staff Reporter

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only raised health concerns, disrupted daily lives and changed the world we live in today; it has put significant restrictions on travel. This has affected Grand Valley State University’s normal Study Abroad experience.

Students are not able to travel out of the country to get that unique learning experience in another place. For some, this affects their timeline of graduation.

Study Abroad at GVSU is cancelled for both the fall 2020 and winter 2021 semesters. Applications will be accepted for spring and summer of 2021.

“We know these opportunities are really great for our students, but we want to make sure that it is a safe and positive experience,” said Alissa Lane, Outreach Coordinator at The Padnos International Center. “We felt cancelling for the winter semester was the best avenue.”

The Padnos International Center is working closely with students that had plans to study abroad originally in the winter semester to come up with some alternative options.

“We have reached out to those students individually to talk to them about if they prefer to just continue that semester at GVSU, or if they’re looking for future study abroad options,” Lane said. “We are trying to work with the students to come up with the best solution based on their specific situation.”

Although fall and winter semesters are cancelled, there will be virtual online meetings students can join to learn more on study abroad for the spring and summer of 2021. These meetings will be held Wednesdays from 5-6 p.m.

“This is a great way for students to start getting the basic information and begin to plan their study abroad,” Lane said.

Students can sign up for the virtual meetings at then scrolling down to events and clicking on Study Abroad (Virtual) First Step Meeting. The meetings serve as a basis to help navigate students through Study Abroad, answer any questions and showcase unique places they can venture to.

“We go over how to pick a program, funding and academic information,” Lane said. “It helps to get students started planning their program. They can also set up one-on-one advising.”

In addition, GVSU is hosting a “Virtual Study Abroad Story Slam” from 5-6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 17 where students can join online and listen to stories from GVSU students and alumni who previously studied abroad.

The Study Abroad Fair will also be virtual this year, held Oct. 13-15 through Zoom. Students will be able to still talk with past study abroad participants and faculty directors.

The Padnos International Center encourages students to start planning their trips early in order to get the best experience they can. The location a student travels sometimes depends on their major, but not always. Students can choose where they are most interested in learning.

“Something that offers flexibility is if students are taking general education credits abroad, then they can pretty much go anywhere,” Lane said. “We recommend students start planning about a year before they are ready to go abroad. There are definitely still students that do it on a quicker timeline, but a year would be ideal.”

Although students not being able to study abroad isn’t ideal, Lane is optimistic and has a positive outlook on what’s to come.

“This has been kind of heartbreaking for us in the office to see students have to change their plans,” Lane said. “I want people to know who’s study abroad was cancelled, the world is still waiting for you. Don’t let this strange year we are having keep you from that curiosity or desire to explore and meet people.”