During these uncertain and unprecedented times, the priority of the Education Abroad Office is on the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff. While we may not have all the answers, the team at the Education Abroad Office is working diligently to identify short- and long-term solutions that will benefit the Global Gamecock community.
All members of the Study Abroad staff have been working around the clock to ensure the wellbeing of our students and partners. We have been reaching out and working with campus advisors on student and program updates and have individually touched base with our exchange students. Having an open flow of communication allows us, as a team, to be better advisors to our students and to help guide them through their options. “I am so proud of the professionalism and dedication of the Study Abroad staff during this unprecedented time. Our campus partners have lifted us up and supported our processes at the onset,” said Magdalena Grudzinski-Hall, Director of the Education Abroad Office.
The University of South Carolina Education Abroad Office has been monitoring the COVID-19 Coronavirus since January. Our initial response was to redirect those students who had signed up to study in China to other locations to complete their semesters abroad. Since February, our office has been working closely with Student Health Services to issue weekly updates on the global developments of COVID-19 to all study abroad students. The Student International Travel Oversight Committee (SITOC) has been meeting regularly since January to evaluate, monitor, and make decisions regarding the suspension of study abroad programming.
Ultimately, the health and safety our students took precedence and we decided to strongly urge all travelers to return to their home countries. Since then, we have been overseeing the return of approximately 800 study abroad students. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has created a worldwide environment that is increasingly unpredictable, which compromises the university’s ability to provide education abroad experiences that meet our high standards. We feel that students are better able to navigate these challenges from home, where they have access to their family support networks, are more familiar with the healthcare system, and are less susceptible to sudden travel restrictions.
The Study Abroad Advising Team has always known that the advising relationship does not end when the student goes abroad. “We view our work as holistic to the full study abroad experience - working with our students from before they travel abroad through their return home. And never is that clearer than now. We continue to work closely with our students to help them feel safe, supported, and connected to the ideals of why they wanted to study abroad in the first place,” said Chrissie Faupel, Assistant Director of Study Abroad Advising.
We know that students are incredibly disappointed that their study abroad semesters ended early. We are too. But we do hope that no matter how long they spent in their host countries, they had the opportunity to learn something about themselves and their temporary homes. “I loved studying abroad and this situation could have been so bad if it wasn't for the help of USC. I still had the time to experience 5 countries, meet an endless amount of different people, and take risks I would have never taken. The adventures I had abroad will be my favorite memories through my life and I'm so happy I can sit at home safe now and reminisce on what an amazing time those 2 months really were,” said Taylor Stoia, a junior who was studying in Italy this semester. As soon as our normal global support systems and high-quality programs are operating with some normalcy, we will be ready to support students once again as they go out into the world. It is that vision that continues to motivate all of our work during this challenging time.
“The Global Carolina Education Abroad Office has been working tirelessly the last three months to communicate with our students, ensure their safety, and preserve the integrity of their academic experience. With most of our students now home, we have turned to planning for the future. In a very uncertain world, Global Carolina believes international education is more important than ever. We are clearly part of one global community. In the coming months, count on us to use all our thought and creativity to make sure that we continue to fulfill our mission: to bring the world to Carolina and Carolina to the world,” said Allen Miller, Vice Provost and Director of Global Carolina.
We want to take the time to thank you all for being patient and for working with us during these times. We will continue to update you with information as it becomes available and wish you health and well-being during this time.