Written by Ben Lane
Since International Programs (IP) resumed this summer, students and individual programs have adapted to studying abroad during a pandemic.
Currently, programs in England (HUE), Florence (HUF), Greece (HUG) and Zambia (HIZ) are being held for full semesters. Harding University in Australia (HUA), is typically also held in the fall; however, IP was unable to resume the program because the country’s borders are closed. These are the first semester-long programs for HUF and HIZ since the fall of 2019, and the first time all four programs have been held in the fall semester since 2019.
“The biggest challenge has not necessarily been following the different regulations, laws and guidance; instead, timing has become tricky,” Audra Pleasant, executive director of IP, said. “It’s difficult to predict how a country will adapt its regulations around COVID when we’re, all around the world, still learning about it as we go.”
Programs are planned out at least one semester before students leave and usually planned one year before the trip begins, but the coronavirus forced IP to adapt plans according to a country’s situation. The challenge now, Pleasant said, is adapting to continually changing rules and regulations regarding the coronavirus so that programs are always in compliance and able to continue studying abroad.
“We have adapted to [rules and regulations], so we’re able to host as many students as possible and provide them with as good of an experience as possible that matches with their expectations and different educational goals,” Pleasant said.
HIZ has significantly changed this semester. HIZ only spent three weeks in Zambia because of unclear regulations, Pleasant said. The students are spending the remainder of their semester in Egypt and Greece with the HUG group.
“It was definitely confusing at first on how God would use three weeks to impact my life and why something that I had looked forward to to that degree had changed so much,” sophomore Destiny Hendrix, who is attending HIZ, said. “But as I have gained perspective on the past semester, I have realized that God used all the places we have gone to and seen and the people we have met as tools to grow us in so many unexpected ways.”
Low enrollment numbers at HUF enabled HUE to travel to Florence and stay with students attending HUF in the villa.
Sophomore Nathan Collier, who is attending HUG, said traveling and following regulations has not been too hard.
“Most of the restrictions are uniform across the countries we visit,” Collier said. “It’s more of an adjustment that we make to the degree and rate of vaccination a particular country has.”