Study Abroad during Covid

Emily McDonald


October 20, 2021

One of the opportunities offered by Alma College is the Venture Grant, which comes with many travel options. One of these options often overlooked is a semester abroad. Semesters abroad can offer exciting experiences, even in light of COVID-19 and the impact it has had on travel.

An Alma College student who is currently doing a semester abroad is Moranda Johnson (‘22). She is studying at Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul, South Korea. She shares that she has had many great experiences so far such as hiking up mountains, visiting landmarks and meeting new people in spite of the current COVID restrictions in South Korea.

Johnson explains, “The Seoul area is under a level 4 lockdown, the toughest level the Korean government has, so it limits how many people can be in a group with exceptions to those fully vaccinated. However, the Korean government does not fully recognize foreign vaccinations, so I must be careful with how many people I am with. The university dorms also have very strict policies about traveling and staying overnight as well as traveling around the country, so it is hard to plan trips to see other areas of Korea.”

Thankfully, she isn’t completely without chances to explore. Carla Jensen, who works in the CSO with Venture opportunities, adds, “I think there is something to be said for investing in the local experience wherever one is studying abroad, rather than trying to see an entire continent with travel excursions every weekend and break. Staying put in their host community will help travelers mitigate risk, and also become immersed in the culture of that place.”

When compared to other travel opportunities such as spring terms, Johnson argues that “I feel like you get to immerse yourself in the culture with a semester abroad because you are living in the country for an extended period of time rather than just visiting for a few weeks, so you get to experience things differently.” Students interested in applying for a semester abroad can do so at http://www.alma.edu/travel. It is important to begin the application process a year in advance and to be aware of the US Department of State travel advisory. Jensen advises that during the pandemic students remain particularly flexible with their plans, making sure they have a backup location or two in case the travel advisory prevents students from visiting their initial choice.

Jensen would also like students wanting to do a semester abroad during the pandemic to “be prepared (psychologically, logistically, and financially) for the possibility of disruptions to their study and travel plans. . . risks are not necessarily greater than they are in Alma, but navigating those disruptions when away from home and campus support systems can be more challenging.”

Even with the challenges of COVID on a semester abroad, there is no need to be discouraged from pursuing the opportunity. Johnson says, “Traveling abroad is an amazing experience, a

once in a lifetime opportunity, and I think every student should take advantage of the study abroad opportunities Alma provides. The process will be hard at first, and there will be a lot of stress involved, but the rewards are worth it. You will get to see things and participate in things you never thought were possible. You will even discover sides of yourself you never knew existed and I think a semester abroad helps you grow as a person because you gain different viewpoints by travelling to other places. So, if anyone is thinking of studying abroad, do it. I promise you won’t regret it.”

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