As COVID-19 continues to disrupt college students' plans, programs, including NC State’s Study Abroad Office, are taking on a new appearance. Following the cancellation of spring, summer and fall programs for 2020, the office is still accepting applications for spring 2021 programs and offering virtual resources for students who are interested in studying abroad.
One of the ways the Study Abroad Office is operating is by meeting with students virtually, while also preparing to send other students abroad in the spring, according to Stephanie Weisfeld, a study abroad advisor.
“[During Welcome Week], me and another study abroad advisor did Instagram Live Q&As, along with a bunch of Study Abroad 101s, once a week virtually,” Weisfeld said. “Advisors are doing all advising via Zoom, and we are going to get started with drop-in advising hours with the added option of a Google Chat via Hangouts two times a week.”
While advising students is Weisfeld’s primary job right now, she’s also working with students whose class schedules have been disrupted this semester from program cancellations.
“Almost all of the students are taking classes at NC State this semester and are on campus,” Weisfeld said. “We made sure they enrolled in classes at NC State, just in case.”
Another way students have replaced their study abroad plans is with virtual global internships, according to Weisfeld. The Study Abroad Office has connected students with virtual internships with international companies for both the summer and fall semesters.
Additionally, the Study Abroad Office is preparing to send students abroad for future semesters as usual, with hopes of resuming programs in the spring, according to Weisfeld.
“For me, as an advisor, we’re always working pretty far ahead,” Weiseld said. “[I’m] currently advising students for the spring semester but am definitely transparent. Most students are aware that programs might be canceled.”
While study abroad advisors are working diligently with students, PackAbroad ambassadors are also reaching out to new students about studying abroad, including Clare Cannon, a fourth-year studying communication and foreign languages and literature and the PackAbroad president.
“We want to promote study abroad and make people aware of the opportunity,” Cannon said. “Freshmen have the opportunity to plan ahead, set courses aside and look into programs that they might be interested in.”
Cannon said the Study Abroad Office and PackAbroad ambassadors will continue to hold information sessions, visit classrooms to share their experiences and give advice on how to apply throughout the semester.
“We plan on interacting on social media, joining Zoom classes and promoting study abroad in the way we have in the past,” Cannon said. “We’re trying to keep things as normal as possible but definitely work around some circumstances.”
The Study Abroad Office now has a virtual front desk students can utilize for additional resources and information about study abroad programs.