University of Lynchburg’s Study Abroad Program

Photo from Dr. Bates

Evy Brunelle ~ News Editor

    In light of the new pandemic normal at t the University of Lynchburg the Study Abroad Program is also adapting.

     According to Ellen Thompson, director of the Center for Global Education  as the university deals with COVID-19, all in-person study abroad trips and most in-person internships have come to a halt. In order to still allow students to experience a study abroad program, the University is now allowing online study abroad and internships. These online programs are nearly a fraction of the cost and are a good way to start your study abroad journey. 

    Thompson said the programs are “[similar] to traditional study abroad, [where] you will take courses from instructors who are experts in the field and often on the ground in the location in which you are learning about – it is just all online! You will also have the opportunity to interact with a diverse group of peers and many times, there are guest lectures or sometimes even virtual tours within the country.” 

     Virtual internships also work remotely, just like the study abroad program; however, according to Thompson, “Some programs even include cultural training and professional development opportunities.” 

    Thompson hopes that  study abroad programming will return to normal by summer 2021.

     Dr. Robin Bates, an english professor, has been leading the London Mind the Gap program since 2013. She said traveling can be fun and is a good way to immerse yourself into a new experience, but, “study abroad is something different: a more immersive experience. There is something deeper, richer, and more compelling about being a student in a culture and of a culture.” She also realizes students might find doing schoolwork while traveling not so fun, but when you complete the work with fellow peers who are always experiencing these new things with you, really makes the assignments more memorable. 

      The three things Dr. Bates always looks forward to on trips is, “seeing stunning plays, often world premiere plays, and taking students to the stage door to meet the actors. We have met actors Helen Mirren, David Tennant, and Haley Atwell on various trips. The second is workshops at places like the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). RADA feels almost like a sacred space to me and to get to learn there and see my students learning there is a cherished experience. The last is the boat trip we always take on the Thames to Kew Botanical gardens where we spend a day relaxing and enjoying the beautiful gardens. It is always a glorious day and I most love the time on the river as they see the incredible city going by and fading into the distance.” 

     Dr. Bates and the students spend two weeks in London where they accomplish some class work, but they must also complete a few assignments before heading out. For example, “The British Drama class has assignments like brief group presentations on theatre history and short responses to reviews of the plays we are going to see. In addition to the plays we see together, students in that class must choose a play to go to and then write a review of it,” said Dr. Bates. 

    Students also have some classwork due when they return from their travels, but Dr. Bates makes sure to give them plenty of time to get over their jet lag before having assignments due. 

     Kathryn Belliveau, senior, was one of the students who went on the study abroad trip to London with Dr. Bates. Her favorite aspect of the trip was getting to see “pretty much every single sight across the city and [we] even spent a day outside of the city in the Richmond area where it was more local people. And [I] spent the day at Kew Gardens where we got to see some beautiful flowers and gardens from Britain. [We] even got to see the princess Diana memorial garden as well.” 

     Belliveau became more connected to the international world during this trip and highly recommends everybody to do a study abroad program at some point, because it allows people to see different cultures and ways of thinking. 

     Caelan Samson, senior, did his study abroad trips in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Samson’s favorite aspect of the trip was, “the interactions with the local communities. At every destination we stopped, it was impossible not to befriend people and learn about their day-to-day lives.” Samson also recommends a study abroad trip because, “if you are not studying abroad, you are not taking advantage of your time as a student here at Lynchburg.” 

     Jenna Bohrer, senior, studied abroad in Granada, Spain. She loves speaking Spanish and hoped that this trip would help improve her Spanish-speaking abilities while also giving her the experience of what it is like to live in another part of the world. Bohrer would go back to Spain in a heartbeat. She said, “A few of my favorite things to do were explore the city, eat tapas, and just enjoy the relaxed lifestyle.” 

     Her trip to Spain had to be cut short due to Covid-19. Bohrer said, “I am so grateful for my time in Spain, even if it was cut short. If anyone has the opportunity to go abroad, I highly recommend that they take advantage of it!” 

     Along with study abroad programs being offered at the school, UL also has domestic study away programs. Dr. Haiar, director of the environmental science department, takes students on a domestic study away program to research dinosaur bones in Wyoming. Dr. Haiar has been leading this trip for 15 years and is hoping to take students again this summer. 

She believes that her trip specifically is important for both science and non-science majors. Dr. Haiar states that, “For science students, getting any kind of field experience is essential to knowing if you want to pursue that in your career, and this trip allows students practice all the things they have been learning about in their classes. For every student, getting the chance to see a part of the US that they have never been to is an amazing opportunity.” She also argues that Wyoming is very different from Virginia and the east coast in general, so it would be a unique opportunity for students to see a different part of America.

Her favorite part of the trip would have to be when “a student finds their very first dinosaur bone. The dinosaur bones have been buried underground for 140 million years, so it is a very humbling and exciting experience for a student to be the very first person to ever see it.” 

As for coursework, Dr. Haiar says that because this is a very hands on trip, “there is some background reading so students have an idea of what we are doing in the field. I teach them how to collect data and keep a field journal while we are doing our work. All of the students who go on the trip work on a presentation of new information once the fall semester starts.” 

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Photo from Dr. Haiar 

If a student is worried about the cost of a study abroad, Thompson said that through the Financial Aid Office, they advise students on different funding options. “Specifically, we advise students on study abroad scholarship options, how to apply, and the eligibility requirements for both institutional and outside scholarships. Financial aid helps students with questions related to other forms of financial aid that are applicable to study abroad programs such as federal loans, parent plus loan, and private loans.”

In order to sign up for any program through the school, including faculty-led, exchange or outside provider programs, students must create an account and apply to the program by using this link and other forms given out by the Abroad Office.

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