Owls in (Virtual) Flight: SCSU Studies Abroad from Home

Owls in (Virtual) Flight: SCSU Studies Abroad from Home

The coronavirus pandemic may have halted some of our Owls’ plans to travel abroad, but the SCSU community remains more globally connected than ever. Throughout the summer, the Office of International Education (OIE) has invited students to travel the globe from the comfort of their homes.

In a series of recorded conversations, SCSU students will connect with their peers at university partner institutions in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and beyond to discuss life as a university student in the pandemic.

The OIE staff members have experienced firsthand the dramatic impact the pandemic has had on student mobility and education abroad. In planning how to proceed for the upcoming year, OIE Director Erin Heidkamp met with Jana Brady, an adjunct faculty member from the Environment, Geography and Marine Sciences Department, about an idea for virtual collaboration.

Brady, having led a group of SCSU students to Malaysia, where she worked with three SCSU partner institutions on a volunteerism program, approached the OIE with an idea for online collaboration between the partner institutions to discuss how the students were affected by the campus closures relating to the pandemic. Along with Ina Marshall, the Programs Abroad Coordinator, the OIE began reaching out to the university partners and developing a framework for what would be a virtual student exchange.

Heidkamp said, “Study abroad is such an essential part of the college experience, as travel was restricted, we wanted to ensure that our students who were planning to go abroad this summer on some of our signature faculty-led programs had the opportunity to take part in a global exchange.”

These conversations, starting with a discussion on student life during the pandemic, will give students unique insight in to the student experience in other countries. As well, it makes available one of the most important elements of study abroad: the social exchange. Heidkamp says, “Giving students the opportunity to see each other, face-to-face via Skype, gives students an introduction to living abroad and removes some of the fears about joining a new community.”

The office hopes to expand these conversations after travel resumes with the hope of creating some co-curricular opportunities for shared classes and an orientation program where students will have the ability to meet some of the students who will be welcoming them abroad.

Heidkamp says, “These are challenging times, but all of our partners are excited to create new connections with SCSU and develop new forms of student mobility.”

Please visit the Office of International Education and keep an eye on the SCSU social media for the June launch.