Options abound for Jackets to swarm abroad

Georgia Tech Lorraine’s campus remains open for students looking for an international experience despite the pandemic’s travel limitations. // Photo by Emily Orton Student Publications

Tech’s summer study abroad programs have had to alter their traditional structure to balance students’ scholarship and safety with the continuing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some programs, such as “Salud in Spain” and “Latin America Today,” have decided to go virtual, offering an online Global at Home Program. Additional programs, such as those at Tech’s Lorraine Campus (GTL), plan to have students in a format as close to pre-pandemic as possible.

Others, such as the Oxford Summer Program, have been canceled completely.

The Technique recently reached out to directors and staff members of these programs to learn more about their plans for the upcoming summer.

“We recognize that this summer may not be the summer we were hoping for ­­— in terms of the pandemic being over, everyone being vaccinated — we’re still in a kinda unknown with what is going to happen and what this summer is going to look like,” said Kelly Comfort, director of “Salud in Spain.”

To deal with this unknown, Comfort has shifted her traditional study abroad program in Spain to a virtual format.

There will be both synchronous and asynchronous components of two courses which focus on health care and medicine in Spain.

“For the student who wants to make this summer meaningful — academically, professionally, culturally and linguistically — I think this is a really great option,” Comfort said.

Her goal in creating the Global at Home program was to make the experience as immersive as possible for students by recreating many of the typical elements of a language-based study abroad such as city tours and exchanges with host families.

“We’re going to have the family try to create a virtual introduction to the city where [the students] would have been living which is Granada,” Comfort said.

Additional plans have been made to engage the host families and students with conversation exchanges and cooking classes.

Comfort also plans to use roundtable discussions with seven medical professionals from Spain and guest lectures from professors at the medical school in the University of Grandad.

“Rather than just interact with me, which [the students] could do anytime, we wanted to give them the resources they would have had if we could have gone abroad,” Comfort said.

Students will also have the option to participate in cultural activities such as flamenco dance classes and discussions on Spanish films and TV series.

An additional class will be offered to students interested in taking part in an internship focused on Hispanic medicine.

The “Salud in Spain” program was designed specifically for students interested in health and medicine.

It can be combined with the “Latin American Today” program, directed by Spanish professor Paul Alonso, allowing students to complete four out of the five required courses for a Spanish minor in one summer.

The aforementioned uncertainties of this summer and Spain’s current and future response to the pandemic encouraged Tech’s Spanish Department to make the decision to move their programs online.

“Due to restrictions in the countries where we normally go, it just wouldn’t make sense for us. For example, currently, in Spain, there’s restrictions on even leaving your province … [and] on how many people can gather besides your immediate household,” Comfort said.

“It just wasn’t going to be possible for us, at least in Spain.”

More than thousand miles away, in Lorraine, France, program directors and staff at GTL are planning for a semi-normal summer.

“This coming summer, we received nearly 400 applications for 300 spots, which is typical during a ‘normal’ year,” said Catherine Bass, director of academic and student affairs for GTL’s undergraduate programs.

Accepted students will be living on GTL’s campus with additional “safety measures implemented [that] mirror those of the Atlanta campus and those mandated by the French government.”

In the fall semester, GTL hosted students with few COVID-19 cases on their campus.

“We looked at French government guidelines and those of Georgia Tech and picked the stricter of the two. We follow Tech’s social distancing recommendation of six feet rather than France’s prescribed three feet four inches,” Abdallah Ougazzaden, director of Georgia Tech-Lorraine, published in a director’s letter for the fall semester.

GTL has more flexibility in offering options for students because it is a campus abroad and not a study abroad program.

“It provides year-round programs for our undergraduate students who take regular Georgia Tech classes while living in France,” Bass said. “Besides the regular GT classes, GTL offers fun, unique cultural activities, events and field trips to enhance the students’ experience in France.” This year, students may be limited in their cultural activities and weekend trips if current travel restrictions around Europe continue into the summer.

As a replacement for a grand tour of Europe, Bass suggested that students focus on France and explore its unique regions.

“The location of Metz allows for easy trips throughout France, be it to Paris or going to the Alps, the French Riviera, the Normandy beaches, the Loire Valley castle region or the beautiful Alsace region only 2 hours away.”

With traveling this upcoming summer, Bass encourages students to be cautious. “The caveat is that [students will] need to act responsible, respect the safety measures and precautions experts from each country have agreed upon.

They may need to show more flexibility in their traveling plans, be willing to adapt to temporary border closing, curfews, visit fewer countries, but this will not make the experience less valuable,” Bass said.

Unlike their classmates in France, students who signed up for the Oxford program earlier this semester will not have the opportunity to do any international traveling. The program recently announced that it would not accept applications for the upcoming summer. Students on Tech’s subreddit report that they have not received their refunds from when the program was originally cancelled in 2020.

Representatives of the program did not respond when contacted for comments.

For students who are unsure about studying abroad this summer, Bass says, “It is a very personal choice which only they can and should make based on their level of comfort.” To find out more about these and other study abroad options, students can visit atlas.gatech.edu. Applications for the “Salud in Spain” program will remain open until March 15.