Study Abroad – Post-COVID Edition

Kiara Lozano, student, University of Arkansas  |  September 17, 2021 in Pearson Students

An ornate ceiling of a cathedral in Rome, Italy.

Now that travelling restrictions are beginning to loosen, it’s time to start thinking about studying abroad again. Travelling post-COVID brings many new challenges that haven’t presented themselves before. However, do not let it set you back - you might be surprised at the amazing opportunities they can actually create. I know that with proper planning you will be ready to take on the world this year!

Pre-departure Preparations

In addition to getting your passport, packing, and booking your flight, one of the biggest factors that you need to consider when studying abroad are the health laws and regulations of your host country along with any additional travelling requirement that might be needed upon entry. As the world continues to open up, many places may still require the use of masks in public areas, require proof of vaccination upon entry, or have other key considerations you need to be aware of. Communicating with your study abroad advisor and host country programmer ahead of time is essential for making sure you have all of your documentation and are prepared prior to your departure. For any additional concerns upon arrival, I recommend checking the CDC and US Embassy websites consistently for all of the latest updates relating to your host country.

Setting Expectations

My biggest piece of advice – expect the unexpected. During these unprecedented times it is important to consider that your study abroad experience might not look the same as you originally thought and that is okay!!! Instead consider it a chance to be spontaneous, embrace the unknown, and learn more about yourself during the process. When I studied abroad in Italy this past summer, my best experiences where those that were unplanned and unsought after. This was a huge breakaway for me as I tend to be an avid planner. But with COVID restrictions consistently changing throughout my stay, I could never be prepared – no matter how hard I tried. However, this allowed me to go into the experience without any expectations and enjoy the moment just as it presented itself. Not setting expectations truly makes your experience abroad.

Immersing Yourself in the Culture

As cliché as it sounds, do as the locals do! There is no better way to experience a new country than by immersing yourself in the culture and exploring the city the way the locals do. During my experience abroad, most of Europe was closed down to tourist and cross-country travelling wasn’t easily accessible or encouraged. This meant that I spent a lot of my time in Rome where I was based. At first this was discouraging, not because Rome isn’t amazing (it is!) but because I felt like I wanted to visit as many places as possible during my time abroad. However, I quickly realized that not being able to travel outside the country I was residing in was in fact the best opportunity. I was able to experience Rome with a more local perspective and made many Italian friends along the way. I strongly encourage you to look at study abroad from a more local approach and take the opportunity to welcome new experiences.

Embracing Change

Lastly, be open minded and eager to embrace change. This experience will bring many amazing opportunities, but it will also present challenges along the way. It is completely normal to feel homesick or experience culture shock – especially if it is your first time abroad. However, it is important to remember that it is all part of the learning experience and differences should be celebrated. Keeping a positive attitude and having a strong support group, whether it be friends or advisors, will help you overcome these bumps in the road and allow you to enjoy your study abroad experience to the fullest.

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