Bethel’s Study Abroad Fair Wednesday highlighted local and international study opportunities for students.
By Julia Van Geest | Contributing Writer
Bethel University’s study abroad program is back this year with new locations, COVID-19 safety measures and academic experiences that were all highlighted at the Study Abroad Fair Wednesday.
Along with its pre-existing study abroad opportunities, Bethel is launching two new programs this year: excursions to North Africa and Europe focused on medieval worlds and a summer program in Taiwan focused on contemporary wellbeing and traditional therapies in partnership with Tunghai University. Associate Professor of History Charlie Goldberg discussed the upcoming medieval cultures program he will be leading in locations such as Morocco, France and Spain.
“We decided that we wanted to offer a course specifically that included non-western perspectives on our western heritage and traditions,” he said. This program has been in the works since 2018 and was expected to take place last year. Now, it is scheduled for interim.
After the study abroad programs were put on pause in 2020, the programs this year must be evaluated for Covid safety, and there are a number of considerations to be taken into account. Associate Dean of International and Off-Campus Programs Virginija Wilcox described a risk location assessment matrix that can be used to determine the entry and exit requirements, vaccination rates and mandates, death rates, and isolation protocols of various locations.
COVID regulations are still a reality for these trips, but Wilcox is optimistic about the number of students who are interested.
“We thought the interest would be kind of slowly picking up and students would be hesitant, but really I feel like we are back in pre-COVID because people are crazy about leaving,” she said. “They couldn’t do it for a year and a half, so now everyone is talking about study abroad.”
Senior Emily Roddel studied abroad with the Spain term program in 2019 and described how COVID will be a factor in the upcoming trip.
“It’s definitely going to be different just because COVID is a thing,” she said, “but I’d say that there’s still going to be a lot of the same opportunities.” She encouraged all Bethel students to expand their academic experience by studying abroad at some point. “You come out of your shell so much more … exploring another culture is priceless.”
Although study abroad has started back up this year, not all students are interested in traveling during a pandemic. Academic Programs International, a third-party provider of study abroad and experiential learning programs, offers a unique opportunity for students to attend virtual classes taught by professors from various countries across the globe along with their Bethel courses. Another third-party group, the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs, offers experiential learning programs within the Twin Cities, such as a Minneapolis-based art for social change semester-long program.
Regardless of whether Bethel students want to learn locally, virtually or internationally, the study abroad program is ready to reboot.
“So far, we’ve been really lucky,” Wilcox said. “A lot of programs and locations are doing great in terms of vaccination rates … things are coming back slowly, but there are a lot of protocols that we need to consider before we send folks out.”