One of our most frequently asked questions these days is, “Can I study abroad during COVID-19?” The answer to that question is “Absolutely!” But what we really think students want to know is, “Will I be able to get as much out of my study abroad experience during COVID as I would any other time?” The answer to that is also “yes,” but the outcome of your study abroad experience is always a direct result of what you put into it. And study abroad during COVID-19 is no exception.
Having a rich and fulfilling international experience is totally possible right now. You just might have to get a little creative with how you explore the world around you. If you’re wondering how you’ll immerse in your host culture and learn as much as possible while respecting social distancing guidelines, mask mandates, and the personal comfort zones of those around you, keep on reading.
Absorb the Language as Much as Possible
A result of spending less time mingling in public spaces, whether it be in restaurants, cafes, or on public transportation, means less time practicing the language with locals. Naturally, social distancing has caused us all to be a little more reserved in public, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn the local language.
If you have to quarantine upon your arrival in your host country, seize the opportunity to absorb the language in some practical ways. Try listening to local music while you do your homework or watching TV to prime your brain for using the language in the “real world,” even if you’re a beginner. You can also read online local news or books written in your host country’s language while you’re settling into your new home. Finding ways to keep the language fresh while you’re isolating will make a difference when it comes time to use it with locals.
Attend Social Distanced Events and Exhibits
You can (and should) still explore your host city while you’re abroad. Why else would you be there? Many cultural attractions like museums, landmarks, theaters, and outdoor festivals have adapted their spaces to follow local requirements, which means you’ll be safe during your visit.
Be sure to follow mask mandates, wash your hands, and be respectful of other patrons by keeping at least six feet between you during your visit. Ask your Resident Director (RD) for some COVID-safe events happening in your city if you aren’t sure what businesses are operating during your program.
Make an Effort to Explore your Host City More
It’s no secret that one of the benefits and biggest draws of study abroad is the ability to travel. We know you’re eager to check some must-see destinations off your travel bucket list, but don’t be discouraged if regional restrictions throw a wrench in your jet-setting plans. Use this time to explore your host city and surrounding areas more than you typically would. We always encourage students to spend as much time as possible immersing in the local community, and now is the perfect time to do that. Spending more time in your host city will not only help you immerse in the local culture, it will also help instill a deeper appreciation for the traditions and ways of live you might otherwise miss out on.
If travel to nearby cities is possible, take day drips to locations you might not have considered before. Not sure where to start? Your RD will have plenty of tips on where to go.