While much of campus is slowly returning to pre-pandemic normalcy, the Study Abroad Office increased the number of available study abroad locations, sent 100 students abroad this fall and reported increased student interest in spring 2022 opportunities. Kim Priebe, director of the Study Abroad Office, said the deadline for both spring 2022 program applications and study abroad scholarships is Sept. 15.
“For spring of 2022, we are offering a limited portfolio of programs in about 30 countries where we have a greater level of confidence that these programs will be able to proceed based on our risk assessment,” Priebe said. “We've got a very comprehensive risk review, looking at COVID-19 metrics, digging into case counts, digging into vaccination rates and looking at trends over time to determine the viability of likelihood that it will be safer or better in certain locations than others.”
Priebe said locations were also selected based on the strength of the partnership with the institution and their infrastructure capabilities in supporting students.
Kim Strozewski, director of the European Center in Prague — which was added under the Office of Global Engagement at NC State in 2017 — said their program is approved because the Czech Republic is considered low risk by the CDC. Strozewski and Anaël Symůnková, communications specialist at the European Center in Prague, said that while COVID-19 vaccination cannot be mandated by the program, it is strongly recommended due to the “COVID pass” system in Europe, which allows for easier travel and participation in cultural activities in Europe for vaccinated individuals.
“We're going to get [students] tested when they arrive, and we arrange all of that,” Strozewski said. “We have a 24-hour emergency phone so the students can get in touch with us if they need to. Now, quarantine rooms [are available] just in case we need them for any reason. It's a group program so when they're coming, they're not alone when they come [and] study abroad, they have a support system behind them.”
The Study Abroad Office sent 16 students abroad at the European Centre in Prague in spring 2021 and another 18 abroad at various locations in summer 2021. Priebe expects a higher number of students going abroad in spring and summer of 2022.
“We're seeing a great deal of interest among students,” Priebe said. “Our applications opened for spring ‘22. The day they opened, we had students asking for advising appointments and starting their application, which is really exciting to see.”
Rachel Finn, a fourth-year studying business administration, studied abroad in Florence, Italy at Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute in spring of 2020. She said that even though she was notified by the University in late February that she had to leave Italy, she was still able to visit Switzerland, France, Spain and England during the time that she had.
“Take the experience, whenever you can,” Finn said. “Even if you are confined within the borders of one country and can't get out to other countries, it's still the biggest learning experience you'll ever have. I moved 600 miles from Rhode Island to North Carolina and then I moved 4000 miles to Italy. It was just a different way of lifestyle, a whole different type of being and living.”
Mackenzie Elmore, a fourth-year studying biology, studied abroad in Stellenbosch, South Africa at Stellenbosch University in spring of 2020. She advises students to try to travel and explore, but in a safe and smart way.
“I had a team of advisors. ...They just helped me get all of my forums and helped me get all my classes set so I didn't have to worry about it too much when I got there,” Elmore said. “The advisors at the university I was at in South Africa were also very helpful in trying to delegate [saying], ‘I think you can do this, I think you can do this.’”
Priebe said students interested in going abroad for spring of 2022 should reach out to the office after first watching or attending a live virtual information session in the Study Abroad 101 Advising Series. She said that after starting an application, students will have an individual appointment with an advisor to go over details and questions.
“Flexibility is really key right now, not only in selecting programs, but also in the preparation process to go abroad and when they get abroad,” Priebe said. “As we see life is different here in the United States right now, life is also equally different in the host countries abroad. And so going into this process of thinking about and researching and applying for study abroad requires a little bit of a different mindset. We want our students to be thinking about that, as they start to get excited about studying abroad.”
Hours for in-person and virtual advising at the Study Abroad Office can be found on its website, with additional hours for application advising offered on Aug. 27, Sept. 3 and Sept. 10 from 2:30-4:30 p.m. To learn more about NC State Prague, students can go to its website, Instagram, Facebook or visit its virtual design platform.