NewsInternationalStudy abroad adapts to traveling amidst COVID-19 restrictions

Study abroad adapts to traveling amidst COVID-19 restrictions

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Photo Courtesy of Study Abroad

The University of Southern Mississippi’s study abroad program returned this semester with new regulations after the COVID-19 pandemic created many travel restrictions and concerns last year.

Fourteen students are currently stationed in several different countries this semester. Most of the students are studying in Spain, but there are also students spending time in France, Ireland, Scotland and South Korea. The program started to send students out of the country in August, but the process for study abroad has changed since the pandemic struck.

“We do require our students abroad to be vaccinated for COVID-19, and that is for their safety. That’s so we don’t spread it,” Faculty Led Program Manager Anna Kate Baygents said. “It’s also because airlines could require it any minute, or the country the week before could be like, ‘Just kidding, you have to have your COVID shot now.”

The program’s events and trips were planned and continuously planned around the pandemic’s numbers and spread. Before, Baygents and the study abroad team planned trip after trip without issue, and every decision was final. Now, however, travel restrictions from the pandemic have changed their entire planning method.

“Our plans could change at any minute moving forward with the program, but if France decides the day before that they are not letting us in, we can’t do anything about that. We’re not going,” Baygents said.

Last spring semester, students abroad during the height of the pandmeic had to be sent back home from the countries they visited while upcoming summer programs had to be cancelled. This is the first semester since COVID-19 where study abroad has been able to continue under a new normal.

The program plans to keep moving forward with all of their upcoming trips and ideas. Students have the opportunity to study abroad from now on if COVID-19 does not change any of the plans.

The program has also added new locations to the study abroad options, including a new domestic trip. Students can now participate in programs in France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Austria and Hawaii.

Baygents broke the process of joining study abroad down into simpler terms for people that were interested. She also made sure to mention that the class credits earned abroad are still Southern Miss credits.

“In the simplest way, we always say, ‘Study abroad is earning USM credit while getting to travel the world’,” Baygents said. “The credit you earn on our program is USM credit. It’s not transfer. It’s not something else.”
Study abroad contains over ten programs for about every major returning this school year. To get involved in any of the programs listed here or on their website, contact the Office of Study Abroad by email at studyabroad@usm.edu or by phone at 601-266-4344. You can also visit their in-person office on the fourth floor of the International Center.

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