With international travel on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the UNL Education Abroad office has had to find ways to provide opportunities for students without actually firing them from UNL.
Cody Hollist, the acting director of education abroad, said it was a complicated process to study abroad when COVID-19 first became a growing threat at UNL in early March 2020.
“The first task was to get everyone home,” Hollist said.
After all of that, Hollist said, the next step was to cancel the summer and fall 2020 semester programs and rebuild study abroad for an online environment.
After the students returned to campus in fall 2020, the goal was to find innovative ways to foster global experiences during a pandemic, he said.
Hollist said the university is already looking for ways to change thinking about global engagement away from traditional student travel to places abroad, as it’s not always realistic for students to be able to do so before. even the pandemic, because of costs and other factors that could prevent students from leaving the states.
He said the COVID-19 pandemic gave them the opportunity to really assess what education abroad is.
“It was an opportunity, born out of the crisis, to understand what we really mean by global experiences and what are the different ways we can achieve it? Hollist said.
Hollist said they reached out to professors for ideas and supported them in creating ways to teach and train students for global citizenship.
This included virtual classes and even partnerships with local communities, Hollist said.
“One program had virtual host families, so the students were matched with families in Brazil,” he said. “They did activities with their families in Brazil and the students explained how connected they felt to their virtual host families.”
Hollist said the pandemic has made people realize that virtual connections can have a powerful impact and that doing programs abroad on Zoom is very possible.
But even with the technological capabilities available, studying abroad in person becomes more possible.
Kelsey Eihausen, a broadcasting major and a student at the Overseas Education Office, studied abroad last summer in Seoul, South Korea, for six weeks, two of which were quarantined.
Eihausen said she plans to go abroad in the summer of 2020 to Sydney, but ultimately chose Seoul because Australia still does not allow education abroad in the summer of 2021.
It was Eihausen’s first time out of the United States, but she said that even though she was thousands of miles away, it didn’t feel that far away.
“It’s something that really shocked me, that I could feel at home in a place so far away and so different from where I’m from,” she said.
Hollist said he wants any student interested in going abroad to come visit his offices and get help, as the process can be overwhelming.
Eihausen also encourages students who can afford it to study abroad. Financial resources are available through the university and programs to help with funding, she said.
“It’s a good opportunity to get out of your normal environment and experience different things,” she said.