USM Resumes Study Abroad Programs as Travel Restrictions Subside
Thu, 09/30/2021 - 09:41am | By: Van Arnold
Study Abroad programs at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) have made a robust return following many frustrating months of travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, there are 14 USM students participating in the fall semester programs. The majority are stationed in Spain, attending the University of Cadiz. The remaining students are visiting South Korea, Scotland, Ireland and France. Although travel restrictions overseas were still in place this past 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 thrilled to once again be sending students on programs,” said Amy Linden, USM’s Study Abroad director. “The past year has been incredibly frustrating for students and faculty planning their schedules around a study abroad program. We have been hopeful that the situation would improve and therefore continued trying to offer programs.”
Linden stresses that COVID restrictions remain in place for many countries and the restrictions often vary. Some host countries are requiring a negative COVID test, proof of vaccination or quarantine upon arrival.
“Restrictions onsite change often, and we remind students that a lot of places still have a mask mandate, limitations on gatherings and social distance rules,” said Linden. “To be prepared for changes in regulations and to keep students, faculty and citizens of host countries as safe as possible, we are requiring all students, faculty and staff on our programs to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at least two weeks prior to departure.”
USM sophomore Patrick Tyson is among the contingent studying at the University of Cadiz this semester. A native of Hazlehurst, Miss., Tyson is pursuing a triple major 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 had to characterize his current study abroad experience in one word it would be “informative.”
“As an English-speaking person born and raised in Mississippi, I have always been in the linguistic majority. My time in Spain has not only provided me insight into non-English speaking life but also helped me expand my linguistic perspective,” he said. “Now, I feel I can more easily sympathize with the perspectives of immigrants, expats and others living in countries that don’t speak their lingua franca. Moreover, my time in Spain has taught me what personal and collegiate life is like outside of my home nation.”
USM’s Study Abroad programs are open to all students (freshmen-graduate students) who meet the minimum requirements – typically at least a 2.5 GPA, with no disciplinary or academic probation issues. The time students spend abroad can vary from two weeks to an academic year, depending upon the course of study. Students also are required to obtain a valid passport.
USM seniors Hannah Whitworth and Malasia Windham, both of Hattiesburg, Miss., agree that their study abroad opportunity has exceeded expectations thus far. They arrived in Spain on Sept. 4 and will complete the program on Nov. 19.
“Goodness, the experience has been incredible. It has been such an adventure and such an incredible learning experience,” said Whitworth, who is majoring in Spanish. “My Spanish has improved so much over the past three weeks than it probably has in the past year. Also, not to mention, the city of Cadiz is just 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 contemplating the program.
“I would say to them you can’t put a price on experience. Do not stress about the cost or second-guess your abilities,” said Windham. “I have learned more here in four weeks than I learned in the four months I used preparing on my own before I came here. If you have a true passion to learn Spanish, immerse yourself in the culture and enjoy the journey along the way.”
Linden points out that those who participate in study abroad activities reap innumerable benefits. Such as:
- Greater cross-cultural understanding that can lead to a better understanding of one’s own cultural values
- Improved language skills
- An expanded outlook on academic and career goals
“The personal growth that happens during and following a study abroad experience supports USM’s core mission to prepare its student population to embark on meaningful life endeavors,” said Linden. “Based on a recent report by NAFSA, employers value and seek out applicants with skills that are gained through 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