Monday, May 31, 2021

Study abroad grapples with its future

As U.S.A. and other countries/areas of the world see improving conditions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, study abroad programs struggle with what to do. Core to the struggle about if and where to resume study abroad is balancing advice from the U.S.A. government against the resources available at various institutions. Those institutions with greater resources are able to make independent and nuanced decisions where lower-resourced institutions restrict themselves to State Department and CDC directives in order to be secure in their decisions.

The differential impact of COVID-19 on areas of the world "has also forced a shift away from Global South countries." The shift benefits Western Europe and parts of Asia, which have "advanced health-care systems and higher vaccination raters. Even before the pandemic, more than half of all students who studied abroad -- 55.7 percent in 2018-19 -- studied in Western Europe." International educators have increasingly encouraged students to go beyond the more comfortable and touristy locations of Europe with the intent of deeper dives into more diverse contexts; research confirms enhanced educational outcomes where greater cultural dissonance is encountered.

The flip side of the study abroad issue is the decline of international students coming to the U.S.A. Education leaders have begged Biden and his administration to intervene to help bring this critical group of learners and scholars back. Study visas are difficult to obtain for many international students as a result of the pandemic and resulting closures of consulates throughout the world. Early reports from campuses indicate that there is hope that international enrollment will increase in 2021.

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