What it’s like to study abroad during COVID-19

What it’s like to study abroad during COVID-19

Image: Pexels

In 2017 over 5.3 million students studied abroad globally, according to The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). But then COVID-19 struck in 2020 and many study abroad plans were cancelled, postponed or went digital. Many countries closed their borders to international students and universities could no longer accept foreign students.

This was also the case for Japanese Norika Iwasaki (22). During the Spring semester of 2020, she was studying at San Francisco State University in California, USA. When the coronavirus spread in the USA, Norika had no choice but to end her studies in San Francisco and move back to Japan. ‘My life in San Francisco ended so suddenly. Honestly, I couldn’t sleep well at the end of March when I needed to decide to leave. These seven months were tough but very inspiring. Leaving without saying goodbye to my friends in San Francisco was pretty hard to decide but I am thankful for everyone I met there. Hopefully I’ll see them again someday,’ she said about her experience.

Yet there is still hope for studying abroad during COVID-19. Jaap Arets (20) is an International Business Administration student at the VU in Amsterdam. He is currently planning to study abroad in Lisbon this September. Even though his plans are uncertain, he is still excited to go abroad for six months.

In some countries study abroad was less affected than in other countries. In Jordan, for example, international students could continue their studies. Mohammed Al (24) from Dubai studied Accounting at the Applied Science Private University in Amman, Jordan. ‘I was on a holiday with my family in Dubai when the pandemic started. Later on, in March 2020 I went back to Jordan to continue my second semester. Jordan was one of the countries best at fighting COVID-19, with a total of only four cases by the end of April 2020,’ he says. ‘That was a result of the genius and fast taken decisions by the government in order to stop the spread of the virus. Jordan has taken very strict and serious decisions that made it able to be among the best countries in the world statistically with the number of cases. For example, a 24/7 lockdown for a week and very wide random free PCR tests on different locations.’

Educations.com conducted two surveys about students’ views on the influence of COVID-19 on studying abroad. The first survey was conducted in March and April of 2020, the second in October of 2020. Both surveys had around 2,700 responses. As can be seen in the figures below, the views of studying during COVID-19 changed quite a bit between March-April and October.

Figure 1 Source: educations.com
Figure 2 Source: educations.com

Figure 3 Source: educations.com

COVID-19 has clearly affected students, but how has it influenced colleges and universities? According to Amy Bergmann, study abroad advisor at the University of Richmond in Virginia, USA ‘A high volume of Richmond students are getting ready to go abroad fall 2021 and students from our various partner institutions are getting ready to come to Richmond. We are very busy with arranging those study abroad programmes, especially since we are working remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For now, we hope our students’ study abroad plans can go on this fall. Previous students’ study abroad plans were mostly cancelled or online because of the pandemic.’

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