(Photo courtesy of Kaia Hayes)
The pandemic presented hurdles and hiccups to studying abroad, but now more and more Kansas State students are studying abroad again as programs and universities adapt.
Education Abroad Acting Director Brent Holliday said there are currently 82 students abroad, with several more going abroad this semester and around 20 students who studied abroad this past fall. About 210 students would study abroad in a typical spring term before the pandemic.
Lauren Rudd, graduate master’s student in interior architecture and product design, is studying abroad in Orvieto, Italy. Rudd said the experience has been amazing so far.
“The town here looks like it was pulled out of a storybook … The first couple of days we were here, [the locals] showed us the historical spots of the town like the duomo and the underground cave system, and now we are just spending our days drinking espresso, taking classes and eating gelato,” Rudd said.
Even so, COVID-19 has changed parts of the experience.
“We do have to wear masks all of the time, and we have to show our vaccine cards every time we go into a new store or restaurant,” Rudd said. “The biggest thing COVID affected was the process getting here. We had to isolate a week to two weeks before we left to make sure we didn’t get COVID. And then we had to test negative 72 hours before arriving in Italy.”
Through the obstacles, students like Kaia Hayes, junior in hospitality management and French, who is studying in Aix-en-Provence, France, still found the experience of studying abroad worth it because it is a unique opportunity to be a student in another country.
“Exploring new cities is cool, but taking classes and everyday life in another country is something you will not get any time else,” Hayes said. “There are so many perks to living abroad while being a student. There are discounts for everything for students in Europe, and there are many programs for students.”
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Education Abroad advisor Kelly Plazibat said K-State is better prepared to handle COVID-19 abroad through its new insurance policy.
“Luckily, K-State recently started working with a new international insurance provider,” Plazibat said. “They cover the cost of quarantine, so hospitalizations, meals and other quarantine-related expenses are now covered under KSU’s international insurance policy that students are all under when they go abroad under one of our programs.”
Holliday said another silver lining to studying abroad during the pandemic is that students get to spend more time in their host country.
“There has been a shift to more singular location experiences rather than multi-country study tours for obvious reasons — mostly relating to regulations around COVID,” Holliday said. “One silver lining is that students are engaging more with their host country and city, and they are developing more friendships locally.”
Hayes agreed with Holliday, saying she has already benefited a lot from the friendships that she has made abroad.
“I did not realize how many people I would be meeting, which is so cool,” Hayes said. “I have made so many friends and am already close with my roommate. I am excited to keep building these relationships.”
If interested in going abroad, Rudd suggests doing it.
“I haven’t even been here for ten days yet, and I am so in love with this experience,” Rudd said. “Being here — fully immersed in another culture completely unlike my own — has pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to grow in new ways. I like who I am as a person more because of it.”
Holliday said that students should take the first step and meet with their education abroad advisor if they are curious about what opportunities might be available to them on an education abroad experience.
“Meeting with someone in our office is a great first step, and you are not committed to anything at that step,” Holliday said. “It is just about learning and exploring opportunities that exist.”
“If students want to have an education abroad experience, I do not want them to feel like they can’t at this time,” Plazibat said. “We are doing everything we can to make that a reality for them.”
The education abroad office is located at 304 Fairchild hall and can be reached at [email protected]