Study abroad is back in motion, providing students with the opportunity to learn and explore in a completely new environment once again.
According to Assistant Vice Provost for International Programs and Senior International Officer Cari Vanderkar, approximately 150 students are abroad this fall. Vanderkar said that they are pleased with the ability to relaunch the programs abroad.
“We have received reports from partners abroad as well as communications from students that they are doing well taking their courses, engaging with their communities and of course navigating the pandemic abroad,” Vanderkar said.
Architectural engineering senior Robert Rochel is one of the students abroad, currently in Switzerland because he did not get to be a part of the study abroad experience that the architectural engineering program offers to students. He said he wanted to go abroad now that the program is back in-person.
Rochel said that Switzerland has things under control when it comes to COVID-19 regulations and if they are followed, students may go onto campus without a mask.
“In regards to learning in the classroom, it helps a lot with interacting with other students and everything feels a little more connected,” Rochel said.
Rochel said he often used to visit his grandparents in Germany, allowing him to gain a “completely different perspective of the world.”
“I think it is important as a young person to broaden your perspective,” Rochel said. “I can empathize and relate with people from different backgrounds a little bit more than if I had just stayed in the U.S. for most of my life.”
According to Vanderkar, prior to COVID-19, Cal Poly sent nearly 1,500 students on study abroad and international trips during the 2018-2019 academic year. In fall of 2019, nearly 800 students were abroad.
Vanderkar said that while the 150 students abroad this fall is a significantly lower number, it is a positive change from the six previous quarters of suspended programs, from spring 2020 through summer 2021.
“We are hopeful that our students will continue to be able to engage in opportunities abroad in the coming year and avail themselves of this high-impact, transformative, learn by doing aspect of their college careers,” Vanderkar said.
Architecture senior Lilli Fore is scheduled to go abroad for the winter and spring quarter in Berlin, Germany. Fore said she was drawn to study abroad because her parents met in Taiwan when they were both abroad in graduate school.
“They always told me how incredible it was to study abroad, so just from an early age I wanted that to be something I did,” Fore said. “German architecture is really interesting which is why I am headed there as well.”
As an architecture major, Fore said she is curious to know what German culture is like and to hopefully feel immersed in a new culture.
“I feel like it will give me a lot of perspective on America,” Fore said. “I am excited to meet new people that are German who have different opinions and to learn from each other.”
Fore said studying abroad is important because it is easy to live in the “U.S. bubble” because so much is happening in the country.
“It is good to get out and see how the United States is viewed and knowing that the way the United States does things is not the only way to do things.” Fore said. “It opens you to a world of possibilities and seems like a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Business administration sophomore Erin Powers has begun looking into studying abroad in Munich, Germany because she can speak German and wants to utilize her skills. Powers said she would look forward to taking some classes in German.
“[Taking classes in German] would make it a lot harder, but it would force me to learn the language better and push me out of my comfort zone, which is something I want to try to do,” Powers said. “We only have one life and I want to be able to experience as many things as I can and this is such a great opportunity to do so.”
Powers said the opportunity to study abroad would motivate her because she can see herself moving to a different country when she is older.
“Getting that experience and building those networks and knowing people in Germany would give me a higher up than other Ameircans that might have the same idea as me,” Power said. “It is about the opportunities that come along with [studying abroad] and I want to grab life by the reins and take on what is going on in front of me.”
Study abroad peer advisor and aerospace engineering junior John Schroebel said he recommends that students study abroad because it is a chance to get out and see the world and try new things, and because it leaves a lasting impression on oneself.
“While abroad, students will have the opportunity to try new foods, practice communicating in a foreign language and experience cultural differences, sometimes requiring that they step out of their comfort zone,” Schroebel said. “Because of this, many people, myself included, come back from studying abroad more confident, open-minded and with a newfound passion for exploring the world.”