OPINION: Plan to study abroad after quarantine

Studying abroad provides perspective, new experiences



Quarantine shouldn’t put a halt to study abroad plans; students can still learn and gain new experiences.


It might not seem like it, but right now is the perfect time to think about studying abroad. We are all stuck inside, trying to fend off boredom now that classes are over. Planning a study abroad experience now provides a welcome distraction from our ho-hum lives and is a good, productive use of time. So, before you watch “Tiger King” again, you might want to think about studying abroad in the future.

“Students should definitely be thinking about the many ways they can gain global experience, with an eye on a time when it is safe to travel for the sake of learning again,” said Kelly Newlon, director of WSU Global Learning.

For many students, studying abroad is a fundamental part of their college experience. When I studied abroad in China last fall, I had experiences and made memories that I will never forget. Studying abroad allows students to experience new cultures and see the world from new perspectives.

“Studying abroad gives students the unique opportunity to see themselves and their country from a distance … Employers have started to recognize that graduates with study abroad experience are simply better hires,” said Mark Lenhart, director of CET Academic Programs, an organization which provides many study abroad opportunities.

Studying abroad is an experience everyone should try to have, especially because it is so accessible in college. No other time in our lives will international travel be this easy. Once this virus is over and we are all able to travel again, we will all want to get away.

The WSU Global Learning Office has a wealth of information on their website about both the programs and countries students can choose from. Always wanted to go to Europe? WSU offers programs from Spain to Hungary. If you’re up for something more adventurous, there are programs in Costa Rica, Morocco, Malaysia, New Zealand or Cuba. These include exchanges, provider programs or faculty-led programs generally offered during spring break or summer.

Newlon said the university is also looking to find new ways for students to experience study abroad.

“The department of global learning is creating a number of new opportunities to have global experiences from right here in Washington including virtual internships and programs, a speaker and experiential learning series, enhanced advising information and much more,” she said.

Thinking about travel is probably the only way most of us will travel this summer and possibly this fall. While international travel is not possible now, you can still look up the places you want to go and get a leg up on planning your next great adventure.

Newlon also said it is always good to plan ahead.

“Study abroad can take more than a year to plan well. This is a great time to connect with Global Learning Advisers to start planning for a program in the future,” she said. “It is never too soon!”

Lenhart said that when students can study abroad again, it will be very important to do so.

“The pandemic has given US students more reason to study abroad – to learn from others, to build international connections, and to identify ways to prevent new global crises,” he said.

The WSU global learning office now offers many tools to plan experiences online, such as making virtual appointments or watching online sessions of Global Cougs 101, a necessary step in the study abroad process.

As for the uncertainty of the future, Lenhart said study abroad will open up eventually.

It seems like a long time before we will get to travel again, but if you start planning now, by the time international travel opens up again you’ll be ready to hop on a plane and have the time of your life.

“You may not be able to study abroad when you want, or even where you want, but it will happen for you one day,” Lenhart said.  “When it happens, it will be the right experience at the right time.”