2020 was quite a year, wasn’t it? We know you already know what we’re talking about, so we won’t go into detail. Instead, we’re celebrating a year full of wins for USAC! While we did operate in several programs around the world during Fall 2020 — thanks to the hard work and dedication of our Health & Safety team, USAC Resident Directors, Central Office staff, and our passionate students — we used the unique year to shift gears a little bit. As these pioneers studied abroad during what is arguably one of the craziest years of their lives, the Central Office team was working on some exciting projects at our home base.
So, as we move into a fresh new year, join us for one last walk down memory lane and take a look at some of our favorite accomplishments.
1. New Website, Who Dis? Introducing the redesigned USAC.edu
Out with the old and in with the new! In May 2020, we announced an exciting redesign of the USAC website, including upgrades, new features, and a fresh look. Our new website makes finding your perfect study abroad program a breeze with a program search tool, on site photos and videos, and a better-than-ever mobile platform (because we know you’re browsing on your phone).
There’s lots of great things to explore on the redesigned USAC.edu website. Start by taking our virtual tour, and then head to usac.edu to explore the website on your own.
2. Telling Student Stories on the Students Beyond Borders Podcast
The Students Beyond Borders Podcast has been a dream for the USAC Communications Department for just about as long as the new website design. When COVID hit and we were no longer able to connect with students and alumni in person, we decided to take our study abroad talk to a virtual platform. Thus, in July, the Students Beyond Borders Podcast was born.
If you haven’t tuned in, Season 1 is available on the USAC website, as well as Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. In our first 13 episodes, we cover topics ranging from virtual study abroad opportunities to apply for scholarships to studying abroad as an underrepresented student – and more! You can catch up on Season 1 now before we air our second season later this month.
3. Continuing International Education from Home
When COVID swept the globe and caused us to close our international doors, we knew we had to provide a solution to students still looking to pursue international education. Enter the USAC Global Perspectives Program, a mix of online courses and virtual internships hosted by USAC’s staff abroad. This program offers students the opportunity to continue their international education while earning credit, gaining professional experience, and networking with professors and professionals from around the globe.
Today, our Global Perspectives program offers online courses in language, health, culture and society, entrepreneurship and more. If you’re looking to boost your resume and gain some on-the-job experience, students can participate in a virtual internship in digital marketing, business, health/wellness, computer science and more. You can combine either program with courses at your home university or take both Global Perspectives online courses and a virtual internship in the same term – it’s up to you!
4. Hungry? Join Us in the USAC Kitchen
This year was all about time in the kitchen: baking sour dough bread, trying that viral TikTok coffee, and lots of takeout. We wanted in on the cooking action, so we created The Global Kitchen, a virtual cookbook featuring recipes from USAC Resident Directors and program staff.
From Kung Pao Chicken in Chengdu to Brigadero for dessert in Floripa, cook and eat your way through 21 USAC Specialty Program locations. Flip through The Global Kitchen below, or cook alongside these cooking videos.
5. Spreading Study Abroad Knowledge
The goal of 2020 was to find creative ways to reconnect with future study abroad students and help keep the dream alive. In the summer of 2020, USAC launched our new virtual Info Sessions – an opportunity for interested students to learn about USAC, the programs we offer, and unique cultural and academic features in each program. We discussed Thai cuisine, housing in Spain, STEM opportunities, and more.
For an updated list of upcoming 2021 info sessions, visit the USAC website.
6. Celebrating USAC With Inside 38
While 2020 was a special year for us, this wasn’t USAC’s first trip around the block. In fact, we celebrated our 38th anniversary this September and looked back on all we’ve accomplished since we began in 1982. We reached out to staff, alumni, and Resident Directors to share their favorite USAC memories and words of encouragement for the future, which we compiled into our Inside 38 video walk down memory lane.
If you missed the videos, you can review the full playlist here.
7. Funding Future Students Through Donor Support
The financial side of studying abroad is always a major focal point for our students. USAC strives to provide affordable programs around the world, and we offer a variety of scholarships and discounts alongside our low program fees to help students fund their international experience.
We knew that the economic effects of the global pandemic would impact future study abroad students, and we wanted to provide financial support. The Students Beyond Borders Fund was born in the fall of 2020 to call on alumni and donors to contribute what they could to USAC scholarships and our Student Emergency Fund.
From the campaign’s start in late August to the end of 2020, 20 donors contributed a little over $7,000 for future USAC students, and we’re still going! If you’re interested in learning more about the Students Beyond Borders Fund, or you’re ready to donate, you can do so here.
8. Staying Strong Through COVID-19
Even though COVID sent us all home (from study abroad programs, from our offices, from our universities…), but we stayed connected with our USAC community despite the physical distance between us.
During the summer, USAC Resident Directors shared videos showing how their communities were actively recovering from the pandemic. These videos educated students on the current state of health and safety in our program locations and even encouraged a small group of USAC students to study abroad in England and Korea during Fall 2020.
Our Resident Directors also connected with USAC alumni by sharing Notes From Abroad, a series of videos and messages from our overseas staff. Our RDs wish they could spend time with every USAC alumni in person, but a virtual catch-up will have to do.
9. Surfs Up! Catch A Wave on USAC’s Newest Program
By now you’ve probably heard about (and maybe done your own research) on USAC’s newest Partnership Program in Lisbon, Portugal. Lisbon has so much to offer: sunny beaches, unique culture and traditions, a world-class university and classes in a wide range of subjects, all in one of the most affordable capital cities in Europe.
10. Patting Ourselves on the Back
2020 ended on a high note when we were awarded “Outstanding International Education Initiative” by the American College Personnel Association (ACPA) Commission for Global Dimensions of Student Development (CGDSD) in December. This award recognizes our “innovative international education initiatives,” including our Global Perspectives program online courses and virtual internships.
“Throughout a very challenging year, it was very important for USAC to continue moving forward in innovative ways, while remaining focused on our mission of engaging students, helping to internationalize campuses in U.S. and abroad, and fostering global student development,” USAC CEO/President, Alyssa Nota said. “Through our Global Perspectives workshops and extensive guest lecture series in virtual classrooms, USAC was able to bring the world to students. We will continue our efforts – both virtually and in person – and will continue to help students attain their international education dreams and goals.