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What It's Like to Study Abroad During the Pandemic

October 12, 2021
by CEA CAPA Content Creator
LR at Sta Barbara3
With the start of the COVID pandemic in early 2020, study abroad opportunities were brought to a halt. When 2021's global vaccine rollout helped pave the way to welcome CEA students abroad again, many took the unique opportunity to experience life in their study abroad cities without the usual droves of tourists and with certain health-focused measures in place. 

Hear directly from several CEA students to learn a candid perspective of what it's like to study abroad during a global pandemic.

Studying Abroad During COVID


"Being abroad during COVID is a very unique experience because, as of right now, most restaurants, points of interest, and countries are open to see, but we are able to experience these places with less tourists. I feel like we are getting to experience these cities with the locals instead of being taken aback by a large amount of visitors. So far, this has been a very special opportunity that may not be able to be replicated in the future."
- Maddie Varga, University of Oklahoma
Barcelona, Spain

"I never expected to study abroad during the pandemic, and now I've done it two semesters in a row! Last spring, when I was in Aix-en-Provence, COVID impacted so much of what I could and couldn't do. I had a 6 p.m. curfew. All the bars, restaurants, movie theaters, and cultural centers were closed. Classes were online, too, so I had to make the best of it by meeting my friends in the park and other outdoor spaces. Luckily, since coming back to Paris this fall, things have been a lot better. Now all of those attractions I mentioned before are open, and there's no curfew. The only real restriction is the 'pass sanitaire,' or green pass. It's essentially a proof of vaccination QR code that is required everywhere to enter. A quick scan and you're good to go! Masks are still mandatory indoors, but not on the streets. It hasn't been that hard to remember to wear a mask, although sometimes it gets tough during a three-hour class. Overall, the pandemic hasn't heavily impacted my study abroad experience; I know that seems counterintuitive with everything I just listed, but those limitations aren't so noticeable when you're exploring the city or learning new things. I definitely recommend studying abroad while you can, and not letting COVID get in your way!"
- Sophia Adams, University of California, Los Angeles
Paris, France

"When I applied to study abroad in Prague, I was aware that COVID might prohibit me from studying in person or traveling to other countries. However, once I arrived in Prague, I had overcome what was the largest hurdle. There have been several perks to studying abroad during the pandemic. (Although, I want to note that we take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of ourselves and the people around us and the pandemic is not taken lightly here.) However, the city is less saturated with tourism, giving international students a more intimate experience living in Prague. I realize the lack of tourism has hurt many small businesses; however, it has also given the city a break from the commotions of all the crowds. My program through CEA, which typically fosters hundreds of students, now has fewer than 30 students this semester. This has allowed us to form strong friendships with one another and get to know the CEA faculty better. Traveling to other countries is easier than I had anticipated. However, there is added responsibility for travelers to be aware of COVID restrictions in other countries. Overall, while there are additional safety precautions here, it has not inhibited my abroad experience in any way and has given me a more exclusive look at living in Prague with very little tourism."
- Hannah Frankel, Syracuse University
Prague, Czech Republic

"Traveling and studying can be a full-time adventure and studying abroad mixes the best of both worlds, but what happens with a global pandemic? With the addition of COVID, my study abroad experience was definitely different from the many people before me, but not completely in a bad way. The odds of anyone person being all alone in a single room of the Louvre seems impossible, and yet when I was there over the summer of 2021, it happened frequently. COVID has slowed down the masses of people not only traveling in Europe but throughout the world. There were countless times in the Prado and Reina Sofia museums in Madrid, the palace of Versailles, or the Belvedere in Austria where my friends and I were the only people in the vicinity. The ability to ride a train and not worry about sitting next to a total stranger for 5 hours on the way to Barcelona was also a silver lining. The pandemic honestly made traveling much easier; the lines at the airports were shorter, the museums were not shoulder-to-shoulder, and the train entries were smoother. Don’t get me wrong – traveling with a mask could be annoying, but everyone has to do it no matter where you live or travel, so why not do it in a different country? The vaccine also makes it much easier to travel, since you don’t have to pay 40 euros for an antigen test or 120 euros for a PCR test to enter the country; all you have to do is walk up, show the vaccination card, and you can walk into any country. COVID is scary and do not be mistaken is still very dangerous, but the cheap airfare, the less crowded streets, and the ability to talk to locals without them brushing you off as another millionth tourist was something I will always treasure about my studies abroad. I wouldn’t say there are any perks to COVID, but traveling was definitely made easier by this horrendous virus."
- Tiffany Zahn, University of Alabama
Madrid, Spain

"Studying abroad has always been something I knew I wanted to do in my college experience since my first year of high school, but I never imagined one of my times studying abroad during a pandemic. It was a headache for a while just sitting and waiting to see if I could go, if sending in all those forms to the Czech Consulate would be meaningless or not. However, I was so thrilled to get the green light that my university and CEA were relaunching study abroad. It is such an awesome feeling to be a part of the first group to study abroad with CEA in Prague and the first group studying abroad again with the University of Delaware, and I know how much of a privilege and responsibility it is, especially to do in a pandemic. I’m thrilled to be in Prague and the Czech Republic and getting to explore, travel in the Czech Republic, and immerse myself in the culture while feeling super safe thanks to the successful pandemic response from the Czech Republic."
- Justin Duca, University of Delaware
Prague, Czech Republic
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