Since the start of the COVID-19 health crisis, discussions of short and long-term impacts on education have echoed through the hallowed walls of institutions worldwide.
Specifically for study abroad, there was a strong belief by some “experts” (at this point, does that term mean anything?) that a shift to virtual/online study abroad options might become long-term based on the fact that these programs are cheaper, require minimal legwork on behalf of the student and still provide a well-rounded cultural experience.
To this point, it should also be considered that Americans studying abroad is a completely different thing than students in the rest of the world who are less averse to foreign travel from a young age (just for richer context).
That theory plummeted like a sinking ship in January 2021 as many schools relaunched in-person programs, which accounted for the virus while still providing a similar experience to what would have been in place before the pandemic.
People signing up for a study abroad program who want to travel abroad? Shocking.
Despite the fantasyland that those who strongly champion virtual study abroad, there is still an ongoing question about the true worth of a semester away experience.
It was one that I hear at least once a week in my one-to-one study abroad advising sessions and remains popular fodder for mainstream media. Here are the main reasons study abroad will continue after the pandemic subsides and WHY you should consider beginning to explore programs:
1. Redeveloping and Building Interpersonal Skills
There’s no doubt that the pandemic has taken its toll on human connection in many ways. Overall, the focus on the suffering has been placed on the elderly and the youngest among us, however, I would argue that college-level students have also had an expense on their mental and emotional existence since it began.
Emerging into a “new normal”, study abroad will provide a fantastic way to work on reshaping your interpersonal skills because it offers a balance of challenges and the opportunity to learn. Between communicating, building relationships, and potentially even having some conflict, it truly is a wonderful way to step back out into a thriving community where most people have a shared common goal and are all going through a similar re-acclimation experience. It’s a great idea from my perspective.
2. Develop New Skills or Expand On Current Passions
Did you start learning a new language during quarantine? Discovered a sudden love for middle eastern cooking that you’d love to try with the locals? Are you now a professional artist who wants to study Art History in Florence?
Study abroad in 2022 and beyond should be used strategically to help bring any key skills to the next level. For students who will be entering the job market in the next 5-10 years post-pandemic, similar to those of us who began working after the recession, skillset, and prowess will be key to securing the type of job that has longevity.
As you work on applying to a program, consider how the courses and activities you will be participating in can be used to maximize your growth in skills and help you in the future.
3. Boost Your Professional and Personal Network
Among the major shifts in life throughout 2020 and 2021, most people have experienced a change in their connections within their network. Perhaps friends have transferred schools (or unfortunately dropped out altogether). You may find more posts on your feed about associates taking ‘gap years’ or ‘short study away’ programs. During economic downturns, coming out of the global health crisis nonetheless, the more connections you can have worldwide, the better.
Study abroad students in 2022 and beyond should keep all options open for professional (and potentially personal) opportunities worldwide. This may mean that you take an international internship unexpectedly, you job hunt during your semester away with the chance to return for something exciting in your field after graduation, or you connect with a company to find ways to learn more about their international work options.
From a personal perspective, cultivating a network with global touch points has never been more important than it is now. It helps to have contacts, friends, and associates everywhere, not just for career help, but just in general.
During your semester away, always find ways to make genuine connections with those in your program, including your program professors and instructors, and locals such as landlords and neighbors — the world itself can easily become your network so use it well.
Until next time,
Are you planning to study abroad in 2022 or 2023? Leave a comment below!
Known as The Study Abroad Specialist, Kimber Grayson is a serial-study abroader turned International Education coach and expert. Since 2014, she has helped 100+ students navigate their semester away journey from the coastal areas of Spain to China and every place in between. In 2018, she launched The LiveStudyLearn™ Abroad Association, a one-of-a-kind online membership platform for study abroad students worldwide.
She holds two Master's degrees from two well-respected London-based universities and has experience working in the US, UK & and Italy.
In her spare time (what's that again?), she enjoys leisure travel city breaks, any snow-based activity, skeet shooting, and attempting to learn new languages.