Thinking About Studying Abroad Soon? Here's What You Need to Know

Growing up, I didn’t have normal bedtime stories. Instead, I would be lulled off to sleep as my mom recounted her adventures in Australia as a college student. She traveled down the coast, visited the Great Barrier Reef and (terrifyingly) bungee jumped out of a hot air balloon. (To think that she wonders where I get my sense of adventure...) This has made me look forward to my Lizzie McGuire moment from primary school forward. With my luck, leave it to an unpredictable pandemic to take the world by storm. 

Come March 2020, study abroad was canceled for the summer and fall semesters worldwide while students everywhere were sent home from their destinations as many countries went into lockdown. Months have passed and while we’re certainly not out of the woods, several opportunities such as study abroad have begun to open up again. This unprecedented circumstance has left many students, including myself, completely baffled and at a loss for words. That said, here is what you need to know about study abroad moving forward:

When can I study abroad again?

According to the University of Florida International Center, study abroad programs are starting back in the Spring 2021 semester. That said, there is still a large amount of uncertainty given the spread of covid-19 and travel restrictions abroad for American citizens. UF will not send students or faculty abroad if they are not absolutely certain the given program can be carried out safely, following all CDC and university guidelines. Due to this, final approval for programs will not be given until 4-6 weeks from departure. Find out more about this here.

Which countries are open to tourism?

The U.S. government has recently lifted the blanket-4 “avoid all travel” advisory. However, as of right now, many countries are still barring tourism. Though this may seem drab, this may change with the season as we approach the spring semester onward. According to Travel Off Path, several noteworthy countries that are travel accessible at the present moment include Brazil, Costa Rica, Croatia, Morocco, Panama, Turkey, Dubai and Ireland. See a full list here.

How do I plan my study abroad?

First of all, congrats on expressing interest in study abroad! UF has one of the very best international centers, sending thousands of students abroad each semester (but none currently for obvious reasons). The process of planning your study abroad can seem overwhelming at first, but many experts are willing to help you embark on this exciting journey whether you plan to study or intern abroad ASAP or several semesters from now. Your first step would be to attend a general info session over Zoom. They are held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 3 p.m. A registration link can be found here

Following this, you will be able to book a one-on-one session with an advisor related to either your major or country of choice where you can begin to plan the specifics of your trip. Staff members at UFIC are incredibly welcoming and well versed in all things abroad. If you have questions about anything, whether that be financials and scholarships, timing, or program providers, chances are they can answer it. After all, they’re there to help!

Will it be the same experience/ Is it still worth it?

In short, no, it won’t be the same experience as it would have been pre-2020. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing! We can’t change the circumstances of this year. Life changes in unpredictable and many times upsetting ways. That said, change and growth are the whole points of study abroad. You might have to take additional precautions or follow safety guidelines more seriously, but it’s an easy sacrifice to make to protect yourself and those around you while still having the opportunity to go on this unique journey. Students worldwide participate in study abroad for many reasons including new friends, a different perspective, and personal and professional growth. This is all still possible! Take a chance on study abroad and you just might come out of it differently than you ever imagined,

 What additional safety precautions are in place?

Many precautions have been added to accommodate the COVID-19 era, although they may differ from place to place tailoring to the situation. According to one of UF’s primary third-party study abroad providers, IES, there have been several additional precautions put in place moving forward. First, staff members have been trained on health and safety protocols to assist, prepare, and respond to COVID-19 issues and aid in access to health care and testing if needed. IES has specific dorms for quarantine, will locate students close to their location of study to reduce the risk of exposure on public transit, will limit classroom sizes to follow social distancing practices, provide students with a single bedroom (as opposed to having a roommate), sanitize living facilities at a minimum of every three days and forbid travel outside of the host country. For more specific details you should contact the provider of the program you plan to undergo. 

Study abroad is a one-of-a-kind experience in every way. I grew up hearing mind-blowing stories and cannot wait to have some of my own to tell. The world is your oyster! Go find your pearl.