After being put on an indefinite hold due to the effects of the pandemic, study abroad programs have come back in full force this semester with student interest for these programs at an all time high.
In hopes of facilitating the spread of information and awareness about study abroad programs at Tech, the Office of International Education hosted the Education Abroad Fair on the afternoon of Oct. 5 at the Exhibition Hall. With almost 130 tables and great turnout, the fair was deemed a success.
The fair was designed to provide students with a way to learn more about individual study abroad programs through one large event.
Student leaders and professors tabled throughout the Exhibition Hall hoping to educate students about their programs and entice them into taking part in the trips being offered for the upcoming semesters.
Tables filled with cultural foods and artifacts, information packets and posters were strategically placed throughout the Exhibition Hall to appeal to students. As students entered the fair, they were met with information about financial aid regarding studying abroad as well as major-specific opportunities.
Then, students were led to tables highlighting each of the individual programs.
Dr. Kirk Bowman, Rise Up & Care term professor of global development and identity, was one of many professors participating in the Education Abroad Fair. Bowman leads the Valencia, Spain study abroad program and has done so since 1999.
“There’s definitely a lot of interest this year. There’s pent up demand to go abroad. The student interest despite the pandemic has surpassed my expectations,” Bowman said.
Outreach Coordinator and Georgia Tech Lorraine Leader Allie Crain made similar observations as Bowman.
“Every year this is our biggest recruiting event typically for the coming year, and I would say this is pretty much on par with the activity we usually get at this fair. We’ve noticed our application numbers start to rise again as well, so it’s very encouraging to see students here coming to the table and being interested and also following through with filling out the applications,” Crain said.
The sizable turn out at the Education Abroad Fair was reflective of the idea that students seem eager to finally get back into the swing of things and are excited to expand their academic experiences.
One question that has arisen amidst talk of resuming normal study abroad practices has been the safety precautions being taken and how COVID-19 has affected future travel to other countries.
Bowman commented on this in relation to the Valencia study abroad program.
“Fortunately, this program is going to two countries that have really high vaccination rates,” Bowman said. “Portugal is number one in the world for vaccinations, and Spain and Portugal will both be close to 100% vaccinated by next year, so we’re thinking we’ll be able to run a regular program for those that have vaccine cards.”
Similarly, the Georgia Tech Lorraine Program has had minimal disruption to its regular routine but is still abiding by and accommodating to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Luckily, unlike a lot of programs which had to stop altogether, Georgia Tech Lorraine did not because we are still a fully functioning campus and we were able to put social distance measures in place on campus as well as offer COVID testing to students at GTL,” Crain said.
“Travel has not been halted, but students are always encouraged to travel safely with masks and abide by the country’s laws including vaccination status and testing.”
A diverse range of students across different ethnicities, majors, hometowns and years attended the fair hoping to gain more insight into the study abroad process.
Justin Connors, a first-year AE, attended the fair even as an international student himself.
“Studying abroad has always been a pretty big interest of mine. Since I spent pretty much my entire life outside of the U.S., I want to continue that lifestyle in college,” Connors said.
“The Education Abroad Fair introduced me to various programs of which I had no prior knowledge of and allowed me to communicate directly with their respective heads.”
Even as an AE major, Connors found study abroad opportunities that piqued his interest and aligned with his major.
“The ISAE Aerospace exchange in Toulouse really interested me just because as a French speaking aerospace major I feel like this is where I would be best suited to study,” Connors said.
The most important takeaway from the Education Abroad Fair experience for students is that study abroad programs are accessible to all students on Tech’s campus and that they should explore all of the opportunities that are available to them.
“I would encourage every student to attend the Education Abroad Fair whether they think they’re interested in study abroad or not because a lot of students feel like it’s not an option for them, and if they came, they may be surprised how many scholarships and courses we offer regardless of their major,” Crain said.
To learn more about all of the study abroad options offered at Tech, visit ea.oie.gatech.edu.