Here’s a new way to do study abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond
Would you study abroad online?
With the U.S. and much of the world engulfed in the COVID-19 pandemic, travel restrictions and health risks have threatened to make study abroad difficult, if not impossible.
But that doesn't mean students won't still want to learn about other cultures and see how people in other parts of the world approach different issues, such as climate change, income inequality or human rights.
Ideally, students would learn about these things in different cultural contexts by actually going to other countries. But since travel abroad to certain countries is off-limits or discouraged due to COVID-19, the question now becomes: How can study abroad still be done?
As a longtime proponent of international education, one solution I see – and one that more and more universities are beginning to pursue – is to have students study abroad online.
American University, Arcadia University Northeastern University and the University of Buffalo are already advancing virtual study abroad. Their programs range from online courses at a U.S. university's international branch campus to courses offered in partnership with foreign universities.
A new approach
These options involve courses designed and taught by either U.S. professors or professors based abroad selected and trained by a U.S. college or university. This is done to make sure the course aligns with the student's graduation requirements.
But I see another way to do virtual study abroad that I believe would radically change the way it is done. And that is, U.S. colleges and universities could offer courses from other parts of the world precisely as they are delivered there, not modified to mirror American courses. The idea would be to expose U.S. students to views from outside of the country.
U.S. colleges and universities could make sure that the selected courses are accredited by reputable organizations, such as the German Accreditation Agency or the Japan Institution for Education Evaluation.
These courses would be delivered through the most advanced technological platforms available. They would also count toward graduation or even be made a graduation requirement. Or they could be a course requirement for a major.
Many universities abroad already offer courses in English that are taught remotely. Being involved with the University of Freiburg in Germany, I've seen firsthand how the online capability of foreign universities increased dramatically as they had to switch online due to the pandemic. Studying abroad online, therefore, is something that could be done right away.
Potential courses could involve climate change studies in Germany or mental health in Denmark. Or instructors could deal with immigration in Italy, the interplay of religion and politics in India or Israel and even human rights in Hong Kong. Students could even enroll in a set of courses on various countries' responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Virtual study abroad would also enable more students to gain exposure to views from other countries because it costs much less. Not all students can readily afford travel and other costs associated with living abroad.
Studying abroad carries important employment and financial benefits. A 2017 survey from the Institute of International Education survey found that study abroad leads to significant gains various critical skills need for the contemporary workplace. Further, 78% of those interviewed say they discussed their study abroad experiences in job interviews.
For virtual study abroad to become a bigger part of U.S. higher education, I see at least three bureaucratic hurdles must be overcome.
The first hurdle is resistance from university leaders. As I inquired about the prospects for virtual study abroad, several senior college and university administrators told me that there is no such thing. For them, study abroad is defined exclusively by physical travel to another country. This is understandable, of course, as many study abroad students anecdotally cite the cultural and social experiences outside the classroom as important to their overall experience.
These administrators, however, are misguided and out of sync with a world afflicted by COVID-19. I also see it as an affront to global climate sustainability for the only option for study abroad to involve air travel and the consumption of vast amounts of fuel.
Secondly, U.S. higher education must accept that there are other ways to educate students beyond the way it is done in the U.S. While the desire to ensure academic integrity is understandable, demanding that international courses be just like the ones already offered in the U.S. obstructs students from encountering other ways to teach and learn.
And, lastly, new, temporary rules that let federal student aid be used for online courses delivered by a foreign university need to be made permanent. The Department of Education made the temporary rule changes in April and May so that thousands of U.S. study abroad students could complete their courses remotely here in the U.S. after COVID-19 forced them to return home. Making the changes permanent will enable many more U.S. students to keep studying abroad virtually.
Currently only 10.9% of college students study abroad at some point while they're earning their degrees. In a world shaken by a pandemic – and where many traditional higher education practices are surely to be reinvented – the virtual study abroad I envision has the potential to give U.S. students a deeper appreciation of perspectives and ideas from other parts of the world.
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The results of this study showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence, declining in early adulthood and then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.
- A 2020 Michigan State University study examined the link between teen social networks and the levels of depression later in life.
- This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, specifically targeting social network data. The results showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence and declining in early adulthood, then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.
- There are several ways you can attempt to stay active and socially connected while battling depression, according to experts.
The study suggested that teenagers who have a smaller social circle showed higher rated of depression later on in life.
Credit: asiandelight/Shutterstock<p><a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-09/msu-tsn093020.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A 2020 Michigan State University study</a> examined the link between teen social networks and the levels of depression later in life. The results of this study suggested teens who have a larger number of friends in adolescent years may be less likely to suffer from depression later in life. These findings were especially prominent in women.</p><p>This study used data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, specifically targeting social network data. This data asks students to select up to 5 male and 5 female friends and indicate how often they felt depressive symptoms. </p><p>MSU Sociology Assistant Professor Molly Copeland and lead author Christina Kamis (Sociology doctoral candidate at Duke University) published the study in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior in September. </p><p><strong>Female teenagers may struggle more with depression during their teen years but show fewer depressive symptoms later in life.</strong> </p><p>For female adolescents, popularity can lead to increased depression during their teen years. However, this ultimately may lead to lasting benefits of fewer depressive symptoms later in life. "Adolescence (is) a sensitive period of early life when structural facets of social relationships can have lasting mental health consequences," Copeland wrote, adding that "compared to boys, girls face additional risks from how others view their social position in adolescence."</p><p>Throughout this study, men showed no association between popularity and depressive symptoms, however, they did show benefits from naming more friends. As for why this is, Copeland has a theory: perhaps the expectations on young girls (compared to young boys) as well as the roles that lead to popularity can create a kind of stress and strain felt more prominently by girls than boys. </p><p>While this does create more difficult teen years for young girls, the stress and strain may lead to giving these girls a psychological skillset that benefits them later in life, allowing them to deal with stressful situations more easily.</p><p>The study also suggested that teenagers who have a smaller social circle showed higher rates of depression later on in life. </p><p><strong>Results from both men and women followed a U-shaped trajectory of depressive symptoms.</strong></p><p>The results showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence and declining in early adulthood, then climbing back up again into one's early 30s. This was particularly more noticeable in women, who showed a steeper decline in symptoms between the ages of 18-26, followed by a more rapid increase in symptoms in their early 30s. </p>
How to stay social while battling depression<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ1MjA3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDMyNDY1N30.e1ULIJ5QYXh4H1SGUPUTJqYBCnX2XWp6InjPRr-2Bdw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C22%2C0%2C22&height=700" id="832fd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b360bb24fb8d6025680bfffb52fd5982" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="depression support group illustration" />
Attending support groups, planning activities with family or even just a weekly phone call to a friend can help alleviate depression.
Credit: Mascha Tace/Shutterstock<p>Although maintaining relationships can help you cope, it can also be one of the most difficult things to do when you're experiencing depression.</p><p>As Dr. Jennifer L. Payne (an assistant professor/co-director of the Women's Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore) <a href="https://www.everydayhealth.com/hs/major-depression/staying-socially-active-with-depression/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">tells Everyday Health</a>: "One of the common symptoms of depression is social isolation." </p><p>Payne goes on to explain that you can "soak up some energy" by simply being around other people, moving around, and staying active.</p><p><strong>Creating a daily schedule and planning activities ensures action. </strong></p><p>While it may be easy to turn down last-minute plans, it's more difficult to cancel plans you've already committed to with friends and family. While it's important not to overwhelm yourself with a packed schedule, creating a minimal daily schedule that involves seeing friends and family or doing activities that you've previously enjoyed can ensure you stay active and often makes you feel more accomplished at the end of each day. </p><p><strong>Support groups and social networking with people who understand. </strong></p><p>While depression can very easily make you feel isolated and alone, surrounding yourself with others who may be struggling with depression as well can help in multiple ways. You will have peer support from people who relate to how you're feeling plus the added benefit of being around people, which can raise your spirits. </p><p><strong>Keeping a journal (and setting goals) can help you feel accomplished. </strong></p><p>Keep a thought journal and detail certain daily or weekly goals (such as a plan to call a friend on Monday or to visit your local coffee shop for a change of scenery on Thursday). These small, achievable goals not only get you out of the house and/or interacting with others, but they also provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction once they are complete. </p><p><strong>Random acts of kindness, such as volunteering, will make you feel good. </strong></p><p><a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/kindness-benefits-james-doty?utm_term=Autofeed&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1596517476" target="_self">Being kind is good for your health</a> in many different ways. Doing something nice for others can boost your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for feelings of satisfaction and well-being. Similar to exercise, kindness, and altruism can also release endorphins, creating a <a href="https://www.quietrev.com/6-science-backed-ways-being-kind-is-good-for-your-health/#:~:text=Kindness%20releases%20feel%2Dgood%20hormones&text=Doing%20nice%20things%20for%20others,as%20a%20%E2%80%9Chelper's%20high.%E2%80%9D" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">temporary sense of euphoria</a> that can help combat depressive symptoms. </p>