In-Person Study Abroad Returns to FIU this Fall

FIU students studying abroad in Italy. Photo courtesy of the Office of Education Abroad.

Marco Pagano / Contributing Writer

Study abroad programs are now back at FIU this coming fall semester, as the university transitions to a post-covid era.

FIU’s Office of Education Abroad has decided to restart in-person study abroad programs in fall 2021, despite their previous decision to delay these opportunities until 2022.

Alejandra Parra helps lead the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) at FIU as senior director. Photo courtesy of Alejandra Parra.

Alejandra Parra, senior director of the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), is optimistic about the prospects of study abroad coming back soon. She said that in the fall, students will be permitted to study abroad in countries with travel health advisory levels one and two.

“[Levels one and two] are not really dangerous to travel to health-wise, politically-wise, and everything,” Parra clarified.

Parra said that students will be allowed to travel to countries that are deemed safe to visit. She clarified that those seeking to study in countries classified as levels three and four will have to seek approval from FIU’s International Travel Committee.

She described the effort to bring back those students who were out of the country when the crisis began. Parra explained around 55 students had to return to the United States and either continue their courses online with the international partner institution or enroll in the courses taught domestically.

She said the office continued to provide opportunities for FIU students to study abroad throughout the pandemic, even if it meant doing so remotely from home.

In partnership with the Office of Global Learning Initiatives, the Office of Study Abroad created ‘Virtual Study Abroad,’ said Parra.  “[The students] are being exposed to global learning, they are given an incredible opportunity to learn about the world without leaving their homes.”

The university has incorporated 18 remote study abroad courses for almost 700 students that have taken advantage of this opportunity since it started in fall 2020.

“Virtual study abroad is here to stay,” said Parra. “We now have the best of both worlds.”

18 courses, 11 countries and four different FIU colleges participate in this new virtual international network, according to the office. To learn more about the OEA virtual initiatives, click the link here.

As for traveling abroad even though some countries remain closed, those that are open might have restrictions in place that do not align with those of the U.S.

“Those requirements may change every day…so we always tell [students] to go to the website of the [country’s] government where they tell you exactly what is required to travel…and then go from there,” Parra said. 

Parra mentioned that although Florida institutions may not ask about or require vaccinations, other destinations may, and they might be selective about the brand of vaccine.

David Park, communication professor at FIU, coordinates the journalism study abroad experience in Andalusia, Spain. Photo courtesy of David Park.

Parra encourages students to go on the office’s website and find out about the education abroad opportunities that the university has to offer.

David Park, communication professor and coordinator of the journalism study abroad experience in Spain, remains positive about the program that was canceled for the past two years.

“Everything keeps changing, but last I read, Spain was open for tourists…and the [case] numbers are going down, but that stuff can change,” said Park. “Look at the U.K. going on lockdown.”

Park referenced the U.K.’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to postpone the country’s reopening amid concerns about the Delta variant and its impact on both vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

Despite the changing situation, Park remains committed to his program in Andalusia, Spain. He said that students should not miss the opportunity to travel, work and have fun through studying abroad.

“Every year I get excited,” said Park. “[Students] feel like they can help the world and it’s super wonderful…they can put it on their resume, wow!”

Elise Gregg, a junior studying journalism at FIU, is ready to resume her study abroad plans to Sheffield, England, in the spring, despite financial hurdles she incurred from the pandemic.

Photo from a study abroad experience in Angers, France. Photo courtesy of Marco Pagano.

She said that she had to quit her job at a movie theater during the pandemic and may have to postpone her study abroad plans again.

Elise Gregg, journalism student at FIU, plans to study abroad in Sheffield, England, this spring. Photo courtesy of Elise Gregg.

Gregg believes that the ISSS is making sure that students do not get too ahead of themselves in their communication with the university community.

“Every time I’ve gotten an email from their office it’s always been like, ‘Hey! Here’s some virtual study abroad programs we have, just kinda keep in mind that we don’t know how things are gonna change up,’” she said.

Elise praised the straightforwardness of the application process.

“They definitely put the ‘International’ in FIU at the study abroad office,” said Gregg. “If you are applying with them, they try to make sure you can do as much of the entire process through FIU as possible.”

She advised students to research as much as possible, look at all the requirements, keep a good number of choices open, stay hopeful and apply for scholarships.

“Plan for the worst, but hope for the best,” said Elise. “Having this goal of being able to study at this specific university doing this specific thing at this specific semester kinda keeps me going.”

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