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June 5, 2020

Impact of corona on study abroad programs

By Vineeth T J

The novel coronavirus has been disrupting lives causing devastating ripple effects worldwide. The first case of the pandemic was reported on December 1, 2019, in Wuhan, China. As of now, the 185 countries have reported confirmed cases of this fast-spreading virus. With the tensions of the COVID 19 in the air, many are also worried about the study abroad plans that remain in uncertainty.

In the present situation of lockdown, many countries have suspended issuing new visas, closed the airports, and have brought strict travel rules to move even within the states. Many universities have halted their student exchange and study abroad programs under the threat of this viral infection. Student mobility can be adversely affected, which in turn can affect the economic stability of the institutions.

Before discussing in detail the impacts of coronavirus on abroad study, let us see how the aspiring international students are responding to their study plans amid the pandemic. 

Response From Prospective International Students

The survey conducted by QS among the prospective international students has helped to create a clear picture of the challenges and expectations in front of the respondents. With the majority of students (61 %) responding that the overseas education plans have not been affected, it is an encouraging fact for both universities and students. About 21 % of the respondents made it clear that the crisis has changed their decision for abroad study and need a rethink on the choice. A minority of 11 % have entirely dropped the plan for international study. However, the aspirants for study abroad are yet to make up their minds, as the situation is getting worse day by day, reporting more cases and deaths due to coronavirus.  

Study Abroad

The higher education system and overseas education are developing many steps to adapt to the current situation. Below are the specific impacts of coronavirus to the study abroad educational system on both aspirants and educational institutions. 

Online classes and exams: With the social distancing put forward by the officials, universities have started delivering lectures using various online platforms. Examination and presentations are to be conducted in varied formats or shall be postponed, which will result in the delay in the completion of the degree. Transparent and detailed communication between students and institutions is expected for the smooth functioning of such online classes.

Restrictions on visas: As a part of lockdown, the travel ban is imposed in all significant cities and educational hotspots. This can affect new admissions this autumn, students from outside the country will find it challenging to reach their study destinations. Various countries have halted issuing new visas in all categories; this, in turn, can reduce student mobility to various foreign universities.

Criteria for admission: The ongoing study programs may delay issuing the degree to the students. This, in turn, can affect the higher education of many aspirants, as they fail to meet the requirements put forward by many universities. Most of the first-year students are the ones going to be affected by this. 

Meeting the deadlines: The application process and submission of documents may get delayed. But make sure to communicate and follow up with the university regarding the concerns. Submitting a completed application with all documents may turn out to be difficult for most of the students. In that case, it is better to provide an incomplete application meeting the date of the deadline.

Economic breakdown of institutions: The main factors that account for the economic backbone of the institution are first-year admissions, student retention, fundings from government bodies, etc. The new admissions and student retention will be adversely affected due to the restrictions imposed in the movement. The overall economic recession can lead to a cut down of grants from the government.

Now let us see in detail what you can do as a student to mitigate the impact of corona on the study plans.

Be optimistic, hold on to your original plan.

The year has just started, and most of the universities start the courses during the months of September-October. Be updated with the announcements from the universities and have a close watch on the public health condition of the land you intend to pursue education. Make sure that you get updated with the latest information regarding the pandemic from official sources like WHO and plan accordingly.

However, it is challenging to determine the rate of spread of the virus and the peak of this spread. This uncertainty is the most worrying part for the students as well as the universities. If the situation continues even after the deadline of the application process, universities will adapt to the situation with needed measures. If at all universities postpone the application procedures, do a little research on visa procedures, part-time work options, and work permit in the meantime. 

Delay your studies for the start of next year

Postponing your plans is a good option as the situation is worsening each day. The country you have selected may also have been affected severely. Take time to rethink the subject and the university you have chosen. Make use of this one year to research and study deeply on various aspects and options for study abroad.

Make wise use of the time after lockdown, to do part-time jobs or temporary jobs that can boost your CV. It can turn out to be an apt time to concentrate on language studies. Prepare for various scholarship exams in your trade, which can help build the knowledge base and help in funding higher education. 

Study abroad

Do an online course

Starting an online short term course can help in effectively managing the free time. Many online academies have come up with free short term courses to help people deal with the time staying at home. Learning a new coding language, brushing up the language skills, discovering the photoshop skills are some of the innovative ideas by which you can motivate yourselves.

Go for an online degree.

An online degree offers flexibility in terms of location, which is the most looked up factor as of now. Many online platforms promote self-paced learning. Wherein, there is no time limit for the course completion; you can finish the course at any time. Many universities have started offering more bachelor's and master's degree programs to deal with the current scenario. Make sure that you have a functional PC or laptop with all the technical requirements needed for the course. 

Is study abroad a safe option in the future?

Both students and parents are concerned about the safety of the study abroad programs. Other global emergencies like the bushfire in Australia, also affected the study plans of many students. But as we see, as time passed by, the tensions also disappeared. Even with all these concerns, study abroad remains to be the best choice for the ones who wish to explore the world. The call of the hour is to support each other and be transparent in the communications between students, agents, and institutions.

Hopefully, let us believe that this shall too pass without causing much impact on the smooth flow of lives. By doing our part of remaining indoors, let us prevent the spread of COVID 19 and help the world to regain its well being.

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