Study Abroad department holds virtual fair

The front of the Study Abroad pamphlet. Courtesy Photo | Aileen Ash

On Sept. 30, SVSU held a study abroad fair to share opportunities with students.

The fair was moved online this semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Study Abroad Coordinator Aileen Ash said the virtual fair increased opportunities for students.

“There are several positives with hosting a virtual study abroad fair,” Ash said. “More of our partners from around the world can participate.”

The platform used for the virtual fair, known as Luna Fairs, aids in helping students find study abroad opportunities that are a good fit for them.

“When students register, they are matched to different pro- grams based on their major/minor, when they want to study abroad and where,” Ash said. “This gives students more of a direction when attending the virtu- al fair instead of blindly walking into a traditional fair and talking to all providers, some of which may not have what they are looking for.”

Studying abroad itself is looking different this year as well, Ash explained.

“It’s imperative that students remain as flexible as possible as we monitor the pandemic and make decisions regarding travel,” Ash said. “Overseas institutions and study abroad providers have been very creative in figuring out how to offer international experiences virtually, such as online language courses, virtual internships and more.

Like other changes brought on the pandemic, students are encouraged to make the most of the experience.

“While some students may not find this option appealing,” she said, “it does offer students who may have not considered studying abroad a cultural experience from the comfort of their home and at a lower cost.”

Although fall study abroad programs were canceled, a decision should be made in early October as to the outlook for out- bound Winter 2021 programs.

“I am actively monitoring the CDC and U.S. Department of State’s website regarding travel for students, faculty and staff,” Ash said. “Applications are open for Winter 2021, Spring/Summer 2021 and Fall 2021 and will adjust accordingly as SVSU monitors and assesses the pandemic situation.”

Even with open applications, students are recommended to prepare for plans to change.

“I have been advising students that they remain as flexible as possible and make sure they are enrolled at SVSU for their intended semester abroad should the program be suspended,” Ash said.

There are still some options open for next year, including a non-credit program to Costa Rica, a trip to Utah for art and a nursing and health science program to Zambia.

Students can also explore options through other providers.

Vanessa Brooks-Herd, an associate professor of social work, attended the fair to recruit for her Costa Rica trip.

This trip is a tuition-free program without heavy emphasis on coursework.

“With this program, we are expanding the scope to diversify the student base,” Brooks-Herd said. “We are looking to recruit students who would probably not stop by a study abroad table because they didn’t think it was for them.”

The program is all about giving students cultural experiences, she said.

“The focus is on immersion in a culture just to understand what it’s like to be living in that environment,” she said. “What do they eat? What music do they hear? Where do they go? It is important to create an experience as different from the one you know, and that’s safe.”

There are still some slots available for the 10-day program, offering a respite from the pandemic and the stresses that have come with it for many students.

For students who attended the fair, registration and program matching through Luna Fairs will be available all semester.

Students who weren’t able to attend can still register on the Study Abroad website to access the program’s matching features and trip information.

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