USM resumes study abroad programs as travel restrictions ease
Thu 09/30/2021 – 9:41 a.m. | By: Van Arnold
The University of Southern Mississippi’s (USM) study abroad programs have made a solid comeback after many frustrating months of travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, 14 USM students participate in the fall semester programs. Most are based in Spain and attend the University of Cadiz. The other students visit South Korea, Scotland, Ireland and France. Although overseas travel restrictions were still in place last summer, the University was able to send 21 students and four faculty members to Hawaii for a program focused on art and history.
“We are delighted to be sending students back to programs,” said Amy Linden, USM’s director of study abroad. “The past year has been incredibly frustrating for students and faculty planning their schedules around a study abroad program. We hoped that the situation would improve and therefore continued to try to offer programs.
Linden points out that COVID restrictions remain in place for many countries and that the restrictions often vary. Some receiving countries require a negative COVID test, proof of vaccination or quarantine on arrival.
“Site restrictions change often, and we remind students that many places still have a mask mandate, limitations on gatherings, and social distancing rules,” Linden said. “To be prepared for regulatory changes and to ensure the safety of students, faculty and citizens of host countries, we require that all students, faculty and staff in our programs be vaccinated against at least COVID-19. two weeks before departure. . ”
USM sophomore student Patrick Tyson is part of the student contingent at the University of Cadiz this semester. Originally from Hazlehurst, Mississippi, Tyson is pursuing a triple specialization in anthropology, sociology and Spanish. He points out that the trip to Spain marks his first time outside of the continental United States.
Tyson explains that if he were to characterize his current study abroad experience in one word, it would be “informative.”
“As an anglophone born and raised in Mississippi, I have always been in the majority language. My stay in Spain not only gave me a glimpse into non-English speaking life, but also helped me broaden my linguistic perspective, ”he said. “Now I feel I can more easily sympathize with the views of immigrants, expatriates and others living in countries who do not speak their lingua franca. Additionally, my time in Spain taught me what personal and collegial life is like outside of my home country.
USM’s study abroad programs are open to all students (graduate freshmen) who meet the minimum requirements – usually at least a GPA of 2.5, with no disciplinary or academic probation issues. The time students spend abroad can vary from two weeks to one academic year, depending on the study program. Students are also required to obtain a valid passport.
USM seniors Hannah Whitworth and Malasia Windham, both of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, agree their study abroad opportunity has so far exceeded expectations. They arrived in Spain on September 4 and will complete the program on November 19.
“My God, the experience has been amazing. It has been such an adventure and such an amazing learning experience, ”said Whitworth, who is majoring in Spanish. “My Spanish has improved so much in the past three weeks than it probably has in the past year. Moreover, not to mention, the city of Cadiz is simply beautiful. There is always something exciting to do here.
Windham, an English major, describes the program as “one of the most challenging, exciting and fun experiences I have ever had in my life.” And she has a reassuring message for any USM student considering the program.
“I would tell them that you can’t put a price on experience. Don’t worry about the cost or question your abilities, ”Windham said. “I learned more here in four weeks than I learned in the four months that I used to prepare myself before coming here. If you have a genuine passion for learning Spanish, immerse yourself in the culture and enjoy the trip along the way.
Linden points out that those who participate in study abroad activities reap countless benefits. Such as:
- A better intercultural understanding which can lead to a better understanding of one’s own cultural values
- Improved language skills
- A broad perspective on academic and professional goals
“The personal growth that occurs during and after a study abroad experience supports USM’s core mission of preparing its student body to embark on meaningful life endeavors,” said Linden. “Based on a recent report from NAFSA, employers value and seek candidates with skills learned from study abroad, such as communication, leadership, problem solving and time management. .
To learn more about study abroad programs at USM, call 601.266.4344 or visit: https://www.usm.edu/study-abroad/index.php