Study Away Programs Persist Despite Pandemic

As international borders re-open to students, Gusties abroad are having eye-opening experiences of a world emerging from a pandemic.
Posted on November 22nd, 2021 by

Around the world, study away programs are reopening for Gusties, including Kendra Held '22 (right), currently studying in Uppsala, Sweden.

By Nicole Post ’25

Despite the challenges of a global pandemic, Gustavus Adolphus College students are still taking advantage of study away opportunities to further their academics and explore new cultures.

In cooperation with the Gustavus Travel Safety Committee, the Center for International and Cultural Education (CICE) has been working diligently to send students abroad safely by reviewing study away destinations, crafting itineraries to limit exposure, and maintaining student vaccination expectations.

For CICE director Bryan Messerly, the extra planning this year was worth the benefits of studying away for students. “Study away programs give students a global perspective and better intercultural communication skills,” he said. “They also encourage intellectual risk taking as students examine their own identity and values, teaching students to engage ethically with our diverse world as they cross language and cultural borders.”

Students traveling abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic have adapted their expectations to suit the uncertainty. Although all parties encountered unfamiliar obstacles while planning trips abroad, staff members remained flexible and patient.

“The faculty were very honest through the entire process, as scary as it was, and it was super comforting to know that I had a lot of people working together to make this experience happen,” said Catrina Toeben ’22, who is currently studying away in Heredia, Costa Rica.

“Study abroad programs teach students things that you can’t learn in a classroom,” said Connor Gag ’22, a study away student at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland

The study away experience still hasn’t returned to normal. Amid the excitement of being in a completely new environment, students have longed for fewer travel restrictions and more opportunities to interact with locals. Nevertheless, students have still had meaningful experiences abroad despite the pandemic, and in certain cases, because of it.

“There is perhaps no better way to understand cultural difference or the function of government systems than through the lens of a pandemic,” explained political science major Nathan Baring ’22 of his time in Costa Rica. “I have learned a great deal from how locals respond to restrictions and how my own country responds to restrictions, and seen how the most basic traits like ‘rights,’ ‘liberties,’ and ‘freedom’ function outside my bubble.”

While this year’s study away programs may look different from previous years, the value behind them stays the same. “Study abroad programs are important to Gustavus because they teach students things that you can’t learn in a classroom,” said Connor Gag ’22, a computer science major studying away at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. “Traveling and living in other areas of the world changes your perspective and gives you a new awareness of the lives of people in other countries.”

Gustavus students continue to show strong interest in study away programs over the 2021-2022 J-Term and the 2022 spring semester, as more opportunities open up. “It is great to see how excited students are to be able to look forward to these experiences again,” said Messerly.

Gustavus students interested in studying away can visit the CICE study away page to learn more and view available programs.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin


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