While many UNC students spend their days sitting on Polk Place or doing their homework in Davis Library, some ditch the traditional experience and pursue their studies abroad.
Spring 2023 study abroad applications opened on August 1 through the UNC Study Abroad Office. The office's website says it welcomes students to learn about the basics of studying abroad while receiving advice from advisors within the office.
As individuals return to campus without masks for the first fall semester since 2019, studying abroad has looked a little different for students over the past few years.
“Little by little it’s been opening up more and more every term,” Mallory Minnehan, the communications and marketing manager of the Study Abroad office, said. “This summer is the first time we saw students studying abroad in the same numbers as students in 2019, pre-pandemic.”
Throughout the pandemic, participation in the UNC Study Abroad Office dropped from 1,724 individuals in the 2018-2019 school year to 386 individuals in the 2020-2021 school year.
Minnehan said the office will consider removing countries as eligible study abroad locations if the U.S. Department of State encourages the general public to reconsider travel under COVID protocols — specifically when countries carry a travel advisory of level three or above.
Certain countries are listed at a level three advisory or higher because of border or visa complications while others are listed as such because of pandemics or dangerous conflicts.
Though COVID precautions will continue to be monitored, they will not affect the financial aid available for students. Minnehan said the office awards over $1 million in scholarships every year for various components, such as a student's major, hometown or financial need.
She said students interested in financial support simply must indicate that they would like to be considered on their application.
“If you go abroad during a semester, then your financial aid will travel with you,” Minnehan said. “If you pick a program that is similar in cost to being in Chapel Hill — has a similar cost of living in terms of housing and meals — then you might even almost break even.”
The study abroad office says it encourages students to consider a multitude of factors when choosing an international program. Some of these factors include location, academics, program type, cost, duration, languages and identity.
Ellen Garfinkle, a senior at UNC majoring in global studies and political science with a minor in middle eastern languages, studied abroad in Israel in spring 2022 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
“I really loved getting to learn both languages that are spoken there because when I was out and about, I really got to use them and the immersive process really helped me in my learning,” Garfinkle said.
Garfinkle said learning about a country’s history within the country itself creates a grounded connection to academics abroad.
Isabella Patterson, a senior double majoring in management and society and communication studies, also studied abroad this past spring. Patterson spent her semester in Florence, Italy, and said one of the highlights of studying abroad was using her experience as a launching pad for a widened global perspective — traveling to 15 different countries all while living in Italy.
Patterson found the application to be relatively easy and said information sessions were provided to prepare students for their experience. She encouraged other students to consider the experience.
"UNC offers so many opportunities," she said. "They want you to go, so just take advantage of all of those opportunities."
The study abroad office will be sending 350 students to countries around the world this fall and applications to study abroad during the spring semester are due September 10.
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