As everyone knows, we are still in “unprecedented times,” but one day life will hopefully go back to “normal.” Colby likes to pride itself on the fact that around seventy percent of the student body has at least one study abroad experience. But what happens when there’s a pandemic? This past fall, as a sophomore, I began the application process to go abroad in spring 2022. Under normal circumstances, it can be daunting to figure out where you want to go, and what kind of program you want to do. This year there was the added complication of trying to predict the future. What countries will be accepting students from America next year? What if there is another spike in cases? I am no expert on this topic, but I have learned a few things preparing to study abroad in Australia in spring 2022.
The first piece of advice I have specifically about COVID is to look at how various countries you are interested in have been handling the pandemic and what case numbers have been. For example, if I did not live in the United States, I would not want to study abroad here. Taiwan and New Zealand, on the other hand, have done a great job handling the pandemic and would be safe places to go. The bottom line is, look for countries with low case rates and solid plans to mitigate the spread of COVID.
The next more general piece of advice I have is to think about what you want out of the experience. You may want to go somewhere for language immersion, or to a place where you can travel a lot. You may want to do field research abroad or satisfy major or minor requirements. You might want to get an internship experience abroad, or just travel somewhere you have never been before. The possibilities are endless, which can be very overwhelming. It is useful to have some idea of what you want before searching through Colby’s database.
I would definitely consult Colby’s study abroad database. The website is honestly super poorly made, but spend some time combing through locations and types of programs. Program websites are always attached, so you can find all the information you need. As you go through the website, you will get a sense of what types and programs interest you and which do not.
Another tip I have is to ask for help. Talk to your friends who have studied abroad. While the juniors this year did not get to go abroad, you can talk to seniors or recent graduates about their experience. You can also reach out to your advisor to see where other people in your major have gone.
Lastly, while the process may be confusing and long, at the end of the day, being able to study abroad is an amazing experience. Travel during the pandemic has been so restricted, so the potential to live in another country for an extended period of time is extra exciting.