The COVID-19 pandemic has grounded study abroad for SUNY Cortland students for the Fall 2020 semester. But the university’s International Programs Office is still finding ways to offer valuable experiences to students.
“We are still trying to give students those valuable intercultural exchanges,” said Mary Schlarb, who has managed the office, among the oldest and largest programs in the SUNY system, for more than 10 years.
Each fall semester, anywhere from 60 to 130 students study abroad. But this fall no one from the university will travel outside U.S. borders. With COVID-19 still spreading and many countries closing their borders to viral hotspots including America, travel outside the U.S. is not possible.
Still, this is not stopping Schlarb and other SUNY Cortland faculty members from placing students in positions to receive valuable cultural experiences.
Like so many other aspects of SUNY Cortland life today, study abroad programs are going virtual for the time being. For example, two SUNY Cortland Health Department faculty members, Barbara Barton and Sarah Beshers, have been closely involved in arranging Child Family Health International (CFHI) internships for students. CFHI internships allow students to be virtually involved in health-focused internships around the world.
The university’s students can also receive the study abroad experience by participating in SUNY’s Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) program. This offering allows participants to visit countries around the globe to experience a variety of international perspectives right from their laptops.
For SUNY Cortland students looking to prepare to explore the globe next semester or sometime in the future, they can attend one of the many WebEx meetings hosted by International Programs. Offerings are posted on the Study Abroad Events Calendar. Individuals can review these and join the WebEx meeting of interest. The meetings range from general information about studying abroad to discussing specific upcoming trips. For example, this week the series explores programs in Ireland, Belize, the United Kingdom, India, Germany, Romania and China while other sessions discuss finding funding for study abroad, virtual exchange opportunities, education and student teaching in Australia, advice from returned students, and anti-racism in the context of study abroad.
Over the years, Schlarb has seen interest and participation with International Programs grow among students and faculty. Despite the pandemic, she still has high hopes for that to continue.
“I expect to see more students because it is more convenient,” Schlarb said. Additionally, these virtual International Programs offerings are much less expensive than the typical study abroad experience.
Although these electives are different than the norm, she encourages student participation.
“The biggest opportunity for growth comes when you step out of you comfort zone,” said Schlarb. “Take a step out and you won’t regret it.”
For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call the International Programs Office at 607-753-2209.
Prepared by Communications Office intern Nicholas Boyer