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Study Abroad Week’s virtual format increases accessibility for students, advisors

| Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Notre Dame Study Abroad Week debuted on Monday with a new virtual format to accommodate the logistical changes required by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The virtual week, which is set to run from Monday, Aug. 31 to Friday, Sept. 4, is a combination of live and pre-recorded sessions. 

Live events include open advising sessions, informational sessions for select locations and discussions with study abroad influencers, who are student ambassadors selected by the Study Abroad team to interact with students on a peer-to-peer level.

Study abroad advisors will be offering live informational sessions specifically for Jerusalem, the Ireland programs and London, as well as a live diversity and inclusion panel on Wednesday and a panel addressing the implications of COVID-19 for Notre Dame Study Abroad on Thursday. 

Pre-recorded sessions include short college and site-specific informational presentations that are available to watch at any time.

Zoom links for live sessions and the videos of pre-recorded sessions are available on the Study Abroad website with Notre Dame log-in credentials.

While planning over the summer, assistant director for Study Abroad Katie Kovar said the team was mindful of changes to class times since some students would be in class for longer hours relative to previous years. Kovar said she thinks the pre-recorded videos will give students better access to information at times that work best for them.

“The videos were a way to make sure that students could view the content at their leisure, whichever videos they’re interested in,” Kovar said. “Most importantly, we needed to make sure students could access the information anytime.”

Laura Stipic, an associate director for Study Abroad, said she hopes the increased accessibility to information about the sites offered by Notre Dame International will encourage students to explore locations they may not have considered before.

“Students can sit at home and learn about everywhere from Jerusalem to Santiago to Beijing, to Kigali,” Stipic said. “They can learn about all of those in quick five to 10 minute increments.”

Kovar added that adopting a virtual format has allowed the team to include staff who live on site at the Notre Dame Global Gateway centers to participate directly in student engagement, in addition to providing flexible access for students. 

“The great thing about virtual is that it’s allowing us to connect all of our Gateway Center staff around the world,” Kovar said. “That’s more difficult to do when we have these events in person to get people to fly out here and be a part of them.”

Summer Kerksick, a sophomore at Notre Dame, said she is most looking forward to hearing from fellow students about the challenging aspects of their study abroad programs and plans to attend the sessions with student influencers to hear more about their experiences.

“I want to know the stuff that people normally don’t talk about because you always see the pictures of people in the nice little landscapes, but I’ve seldom heard about the times where people are just like, homesick or their mental health is just kind of down the drain,” she said. “I want to know more about those little real moments: What are the challenges of studying abroad?”

Kerksick, who is double majoring in international economics and Irish language & literature, says she is also eager to learn about the differences between the various Ireland programs. 

“I definitely want to learn about the different programs in Ireland, what’s the difference between [Trinity College Dublin] compared to Galway, because I know that Galway is a relatively new program,” she said.

Kerksick also said she is optimistic about planning to study abroad in spite of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the United States, we’ve been dealing with this pandemic very differently from everybody else,” she said. “So I want to see, how did the rest of the world deal with this? What is this going to look like for everybody else? I’m actually pretty optimistic about it.”

Looking ahead, Stipic said she hopes students will take advantage of Study Abroad Week to learn about the variety of options that exist at Notre Dame.

“I hope students really take this time to explore their options and be intentional about their program that they choose to apply for,” she said. “I think Study Abroad Week gives them that platform to do so because we present everything all at one time, so they can jump around to different programs, different locations and learn what might be a good fit for them.”

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About Erin Fennessy

Erin is a biochemistry and French major from Madison, Wisconsin, who is also minoring in the Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She writes news, and takes and edits photos for The Observer.

Contact Erin